Engendered Livestock Market System in Northeast Nigeria: Pushing the boundaries for women
This blog is jointly authored by Wilson Wakawa, Intervention Lead – Livestock Productivity of the Rural Resilience Activity, Nurein Abdulafattah Shittu, Advisor, Peace and Conflict at the Rural Resilience Activity and John Rachkara, Deputy Chief of Party of the Rural Resilience Activity.
Livestock production is an important agricultural activity in Nigeria, with millions of people involved. The livestock market in Nigeria is a significant contributor to the country's economy, providing employment opportunities generating income, and improving nutrition for many households, particularly in rural areas. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of Nigeria, the contribution of the livestock sector to Nigeria's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was approximately 1.5% in 2020. While this percentage may appear relatively low, the industry is vital to the country's food security and livelihoods. As such, the sector has significant potential for further growth and development, mainly through increased investment in infrastructure, technology, and value chain development. A large number of small-scale producers and traders characterize the livestock market in Nigeria. The market is primarily informal, with transactions occurring in local markets and between individual buyers and sellers. However, larger, more formal markets exist, particularly in Southern Nigeria.
The livestock market faces several challenges, including inadequate infrastructure, poor animal health resulting from a lack of veterinary services, inefficient feeding systems, and limited access to finance and technology. In addition, the sector is vulnerable to climate change and other environmental factors, such as droughts and floods. Women face several challenges in the livestock market in Nigeria, including limited access to resources, poor market infrastructure, and security concerns. They suffer gender-based discrimination in the livestock market, including unequal pay, limited access to credit, and limited decision-making power. Access to education and training in livestock production and marketing limits their ability to participate in the market and take advantage of new technologies and practices. The livestock market is characterized by poor infrastructure, including inadequate roads, markets, and storage facilities, making it difficult for women to transport and sell their livestock. Sometimes, they must rely on men to sell their animals. Women also face difficulties accessing veterinary services and other resources that can help them maintain the health and productivity of their livestock.
To address these challenges, there is a need for policies and interventions that promote gender equality and empower women in the livestock sector. The Feed the Future Nigeria Rural Resilience Activity (RRA) works to protect the livelihoods and well-being of the population in Northeast Nigeria by deploying the market systems development (MSD) approach. MSD is a path to economic development focusing on improving markets so they work better for poor and marginalized communities. RRA has partnered with several private-sector players to experiment engendered livestock production system in Northeast Nigeria.
How did we do it? What worked and what didn’t, and why? RRA conducted a market assessment to understand the drivers of competitiveness of the livestock sector. We were also keen to understand the terms of participation of women in the livestock market and how it could be improved and armed with the drivers of underperformance in the core of the livestock markets. The market is characterized by low yields of poor-quality animals, which leads to low profits for women farmers and a low growth rate. This leads to the high cost of raising animals, more extended periods to achieve marketable weight, and uncompetitive markets. Some system-level problems include informal markets characterized by a highly dispersed, low-value input and output distribution network with low levels of trust, little accountability, and low levels of information transfer. This has led to little access to quality inputs and effective extension services for farmers (especially women), asymmetric buyer relationships with farmers with little scope to demand better prices, and minimal trust in the market. Low productivity is perpetuated as farmers, especially women, have inadequate access to productivity-enhancing technologies, do not access competitive markets, and don’t realize the perceived benefits. Women, already suffering from time poverty, are also influenced by the extra labor needed to utilize the inputs. Moreover, the risks associated with an investment in higher productivity are high, and the rewards are uncertain, with no guaranteed market that offers a price premium for higher-quality animals. Women also have to rely on their male counterparts to sell their livestock.
Is it possible to engender the livestock market, a traditionally male-dominated sector? How did RRA facilitate the market in a way that alters women's participation terms? First, we understood that promoting an inclusive livestock market requires intentional effort to ensure all stakeholders have access to the market and are treated fairly. We mobilized some private sector players to collaborate with the project. We pitched an engendered business model to them. Through these partners, we provided equitable access to market information, ensuring that all livestock producers access market information such as prices, demand, and supply. Regularly disseminating market information through various channels, including online platforms, can achieve this. Secondly, we encouraged the participation of women, youth, and small-scale producers. The partners we assembled achieved this through targeted training, outreach programs, and access to credit facilities. Thirdly, we also developed new partnerships stretching from industry associations, suppliers of animal inputs, regulators, and service providers.
Fostering partnerships between livestock producers, traders, and buyers to promote knowledge sharing, networking, and market linkages helped to create a more vibrant and diverse market. By taking these steps, stakeholders in the livestock market can work together to create a more inclusive market that benefits all involved.
One company mobilized 3,000 women livestock farmers across the Northeast states and clustered them into groups of 30, each attached to a livestock agent. The agent renders quality animal health and extension services, targeted training, and market linkages for the farmers leveraging the company’s networks and digital platform. The groups serve as a platform for information sharing and cross-learning, with some of them rendering savings and loan services among themselves to enhance access to finance for members. The company also provided 500 female farmers with goats as in-kind loans in the first round of the loan disbursement. It also listed the women and their livestock on its digital platform for market visibility. Another company also invested in quality animal health service delivery and a supply chain of veterinary commodities. It has partnered with 300 women with poultry and sheep in-kind loans. They offer targeted training and mentorship on improved husbandry practices. The farmers were linked to enhanced feeding technologies, insurance premiums, and quality breeds to achieve improved yields, increased growth rate, reduced cost of raising animals, reduced period to accomplish the marketable size, and decreased risk associated with poultry birds.
Some lessons learned are strengthening women's access to resources, facilitating access to livestock training opportunities, and promoting women's participation in marketing processes through technology-enabled solutions work. To expand the boundaries further for women, there will be a need to invest in infrastructure improvement. Ensuring that livestock markets have adequate infrastructure such as water points, loading and offloading bays, and holding facilities will make it easier for producers to bring their livestock to market, create a market-friendly environment for women and reduce drudgery and stress. Another area to look at is fair trading policies. For example, Southwestern states offer substantial market opportunities, but the barrier to entry is high for women livestock farmers from Northeast Nigeria. Developing trading policies that are fair and transparent to all stakeholders, which may include clear regulations on grading, weighing, and pricing of livestock, will benefit more women. One such policy could be selling slaughtered animals from the Northeast to the Southwest, which is currently prohibited. Such a policy would facilitate access to high-quality markets, improve supply chain efficiency and enable female livestock farmers to capture sufficient value from their livestock. It would also ensure that animal welfare standards are followed during transportation, handling, and slaughter practices. It would also retain several jobs in the region.
Engendering the livestock system requires broader social and cultural norms that perpetuate gender-based discrimination and limit women's opportunities in the livestock market. Whereas it may be difficult to solve these challenges in the context of Northeast Nigeria completely, it is possible. By addressing these challenges, women can be more active in the livestock market and contribute to Nigeria's sustainable and inclusive economic growth. Efforts are also required to promote investments, particularly in feed production, access to animal health services and competitive markets, and supply chain efficiencies, including scaling up digital solutions, increasing the productivity of women-facing livestock like sheep, goats, and poultry, and investing in meat processing facilities. These will improve women’s choices, encourage participation, access competitive markets, and capture more value from their livestock investments.