WE Research

Article excerpt

"Back then, you'll eat, you'll drink, and you'll be full. There was enough and there were leftovers"

Women's Changing Experiences of Urban Food Security in lbadan, Nigeria

"Now, [food is] more expensive. As it is expensive now, may God provide money for us to be able to eat it..."

(Tayo, 42, a high-density resident)

About three decades ago, many urban dwellers in lbadan, Nigeria did not worry about their daily meal. However, over the years, food security has gradually become more tenuous and food insecurity issues presently plague the majority of lbadan 's populace, particularly the urban poor, and more specifically women.

This article examines women's changing experiences of food security in lbadan and argues that women's experience of food insecurity can be attributed to the decline in purchasing power and high transaction costs combined with the rise in global food prices. While discussing women's experiences of food insecurity, the paper briefly highlights how these women's experiences differ based on age, income-level and gender of household head. In describing women's experiences, their coping strategies are also examined. The article concludes by examining possible options for enhancing women's food security in Ibadan.

Women and Food Security in Ibadan

Ibadan is located in South-Western Nigeria and it is the largest indigenous city in Sub-Saharan Africa. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with 48 women, ages 18 to 83, in two Metropolitan areas of the city. Twentyfour women were interviewed in each area between June and August of 2011.

In each local government district, three neighborhoods were selected based on their classification as low, medium or high density. Eight women were then chosen to represent each density area. Residential location in lbadan is often a good indicator of income-levels; for example, high-density areas are often more slum-like in character and house a larger proportion of the urban poor.

The objective of the interviews was to understand women's experiences in lbadan and their aspiration for urban development. Food security emerged as a predominant theme during the interviews. Twenty-eight out of the 32 women living in medium and high-density neighborhoods complained about the change in their purchasing power in the food market and their growing sense of food insecurity in response to at least one of the following questions:

* Can you describe any changes that have taken place in lbadan since you've been living here?

* What are the major challenges you face every day?

* What would make your daily life easier?

* If you were a city planner or a politician what would you think are the most important things to address in the city?

Of the 28 women who expressed alarm at the rise in food prices and their decreasing purchasing ability, 39.3% were head of households. Access to food was more of a struggle for these female-headed households and they also spent a larger proportion of their income on food. None of the 16 women residing in the low-density neighborhoods cited access to food as a concern during the interview. When asked to describe how they spend their income, in comparison to women living in the medium and high-density areas, lowdensity area dwellers spend a lower percentage of their income on food.

Women's Perception of Food Availability in Ibadan

From the perspectives of some of the women interviewed, food availability does not appear to be a problem in Ibadan. In fact, the aggregate index of agricultural production, especially major staple crops, has been On the increase since 2004 (see Central Bank of Nigeria, 2009). Rather, the problem appears to be the affordability of the food and the availability of money to purchase it. For example, women food traders explained that the majority of Ibadan's population does not have money to purchase food items because of the government's failure to pay salaries on time. …