Kofyar Women Who Get Ahead:
Incentives for Agricultural
Commercialization in Nigeria
M. Priscilla Stone and Glenn Davis Stone
An increasing number of studies now document African women's involvement in commercial agricultural production and have investigated how that process has varied under different agricultural regimes and links to external markets. In this chapter on the Kofyar women of Nigeria, we describe a case of indigenous agricultural development in which women have been centrally important to developing commercial farming in their households, as well as to entering the market with their own-account farming. The history of the Kofyar's expansion into crop production for the market, using indigenous low-energy technology and settling an agricultural frontier, has been the subject of long-term study (Netting 1968; Stone 1988a, 1988b; Netting, Stone, and Stone 1989; Stone, Netting, and Stone 1990; Netting, Stone, and Stone 1993).
Other recent studies of women's commercial farming (e.g., Guyer 1995; Spring 1995) have looked beyond generalizations about agricultural systems as wholes and have looked for patterns of variation that might explain which women farmers within one agricultural system participate most often in the market. To identify such patterns, researchers investigated Kofyar women's access to labor, both household and extrahousehold group labor (Stone, Stone, and Netting 1995), as well as their marital and childbearing status (Stone 1988a, 1988b). Most research, including our own, has relied on comparison of central tendencies of basic social categories; for instance, comparing women of different marital statuses and relationships to household heads, as well as comparing women of different ages to explain such variation (Bledsoe 1976; Guyer 1984; Whitehead 1981). Such analysis is helpful and has shown that senior Kofyar wives of polygynous households outproduce their more junior counterparts and