Moringa oleifera (horseradish tree--English) is a perennial plant, which has been found to possess high economic and cultural values in many countries of the world. This study was carried out to analyse the socio-cultural perception about Moringa oleifera according to farmers' gender in Southwestern Nigeria. It specifically established the correlates of perception of Moringa oleifera among the farmers; described the sociodomographics of the farmers; examined the gender gaps in the level of awareness and propagation of Moringa oleifera; compared their willingness to adopt innovation on Moringa oleifera and analysed the constraints associated with men's and women's propagation of Moringa oleifera. A snow-ball sampling technique was used to select equal number of male and female respondents across the region. The results revealed amongst others, that widowhood and illiteracy were the likely interlocking system, which has reshaped oppression among the female respondents. Statistically significant gender gaps or inequalities at P _< 0.05 level, existed in the level of awareness (F = 6.29), propagation (F = 15.56), willingness to adopt innovation (F = 12.61) and socio-cultural perception of Moringa oleifera (F = 11.34). The study concluded that the gender differential gaps could reverse the gains of innovations on Moringa oleifera by limiting the adoption of innovation and propagation of the plant among the farm families. It, therefore, recommended that the generated innovations should be properly screened to ensure that they do not upset the delicate economic power balance between men and women in the farming sector or widen the gender inequalities or create other vectors of oppression. So, policies that encourage women's literacy as well as access to innovations and farm labour, most especially amongst the widows are indispensable in enhancing socio-cultural perceptions and adoption of innovation as well as propagation of Moringa oleifera for sustainable development in Southwest Nigeria.
Keywords: Gender and agriculture, Women in Nigeria, Moringa oleifera, sustainable development
According to Verma et al. (1976) Moringa oleifera (horseradish tree--English) is a short, slender, deciduous, perennial tree. Almost every part of the tree is of value for food. Moringanews (2008) reported that the leaf is a power house of nutritional value. The seed is said to be eaten like a peanut in Malaya. Thickened root is used as substitute for horseradish. The Foliage is eaten as greens, in salads, in vegetable curries, as pickles and for seasoning. The root is used in Nicaragua for dropsy. Moringa oleifera, in the belief of some folk, does not only have high nutritional and medicinal values (Morton, 1991), but also possesses mystical power. For instance, while the India's ancient tradition of Ayurveda believed that the leaves of Moringa oleifera prevent about 300 diseases; and Hartwell (1971) had reported that the flowers, leaves and roots are used in remedies for tumors and dropsy in Nicaragua, Duke (1978) wrote that the branches are used as charms against witchcraft. More so, Moringa oleifera are not only planted around homes among the Hausa of Nigeria, to provide fence but also are planted on graves to prevent hyenas from exhuming corps. Moringa oleifera is, thus, perceived in the Hausa culture, as a sacred tree that protects both the living and the dead.
Moringa oleifera, because of its socio-economic and cultural importance, is raising a growing international interest among NGOs, scientists, public and private sectors. But then, it is imperative to note that while a number of studies have been carried out on the origin, morphology and chemistry of Moringa oleifera (Fuglie, 2001 and Olson, 2001), little or no effort has been made to unearth the prevailing gendered socio-cultural perceptions about the plant amongst its custodians (farm families). While research on chemistry of Moringa oleifera could lead to invention or new discovery, investigation on its prevailing gendered socio-cultural perceptions could accelerate the adoption of innovations on the plant and enhance sustainable development, most especially among the rural women, who are more vulnerable to poverty and malnutrition (Williams and Torimiro, 2008). …