The Role of Home Economics Agents in Rural Development Programs in Northern Nigeria: Impacts of Structural Adjustment
Comfort B. Olayiwole
Women's participation in rural development programs has increasingly become an important focus for governments of Third World countries and international agencies. Ensuring that women are active participants in rural development not only fulfills the equality issue but also makes economic sense since women make up over 50 percent of the rural labor force. Equity and social justice are said to be some of the reasons for justifying priority on rural development. In Nigeria, the population is predominantly rural and depends on agriculture and its related actives for livelihood. Therefore any effort to develop the rural areas requires the mobilization of rural resources, human and material.
It is also generally agreed that rural development is an essential and primary part of overall economic development. Thus rural development must include not only improved agriculture and increased production, but also improvement of the standards of living of the rural households. In discussing rural people's participation in development, FAO ( 1979) observed that "the key steps towards effective participation include: encouraging organization of the rural population, decentralizing decision- making and, if necessary, reforming local government institutions and involving the beneficiaries of the development programmes."
Participation thus implies that rural women are actively involved in the decision making, planning, and execution of rural development programs beneficial to them, their households, and communities. In the northern states of Nigeria, as in the rest of Nigeria and Africa in general, women play vital roles in the survival of their households. Their contribution in raising children--the future labor force--as well as their agricultural and
Comfort Olaylwole is principal, Samaru College of Agriculture, Ahmadu Bello University. She has a Ph.D. in Home Economics from Kansas State University, where she studied on a Ford Foundation fellowship. She is the author of numerous articles on Nigerian women's roles in food production and marketing and the role of home economics in rural development.