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INTRODUCTION

The importance of women farmers in agricultural development has been receiving recognition recently (Gladwin 1991; Adeyemi 1992).Women play a central role in the development of sustainable agricultural systems, particularly in improving crop and grassland productivity. In Sub-Saharan African, it is estimated that women contribute 30 to 80 percent of the agricultural labour for crop production depending on area and economic class (FAO 2004)

Women are usually very dependent on common property resources for water, firewood, compost for farmland and wild herbs, mushrooms, fruits and nuts, as it is usually their responsibility to ensure that the family is supplied with these goods (Swope 1995). When these commonly held resources become scarce and property rights are exerted because of a perceived market value, their control tends to be assumed by men, although women’s role as the supplier to the family of these resources does not change (Agarwal 1989). Women produce between 60 and 80 percent of the food in most developing countries and are responsible for half of the world’s food production, yet their key role as food producers and providers and their critical contribution to household food security is only now becoming recognized (Adekanye 1988; Adeyemi 1992; FAO 2004).

In Nigeria, the record of involvement of women in agriculture is well documented. The Federal Office of Statistics (1984) reports that 48% of all females are fully engaged in agriculture compare to 17% of men. In some state, such as Anambra, Imo, Cross-Rivers, Benue and Kaduna, over 80% of women in rural areas are actively involved in agriculture. In Hausaland and many northern states, women are involved in harvesting of food crops, pounding grains, roots and tubers or smoking and drying fish. Mijindadi (1993) estimated that women are responsible for 70% of actual farm work and constitute up to 60% of farming population in Nigeria.

FAO studies confirm that while women are the mainstay of small-scale agriculture, farm labour force and day-to-day family subsistence, they have more difficulties than men in gaining access to resources such as land and credit and productivity enhancing inputs and services (Adesina and Djato 1997; Quisumbing 1994). One of the reasons for the decline in women’s access to resources is that both land redistribution and subsidized agricultural inputs are in the hands of men who see women as dependent rather than individuals (Ajakpo 1995). An augument often used against female farmers is that they are less efficient than male farmers (FAO 1985).

Efficiency has three components: technical, allocative and economic. According to Farrell, technical efficiency is associated with the ability to produce on the frontier isoquant, while allocative efficiency refers to the ability to produce at a given level of output using the cost minimizing input ratios. Economic efficiency combines technical and allocative efficiency. Economic efficiency is defined as the capacity of a firm to produce a pre-determined quantity of output at minimum cost for a given level of technology (Farrell 1957; Kopp and Diewert 1982). It is possible for a firm to have either technical or allocative efficiency without having economic efficiency. Technical and allocative efficiency are necessary, and when they occur together, are sufficient conditions for achieving economic efficiency (Yotopoulos and Nuggent 1976). This study therefore, aimed at investigating the efficiency of women food croppers in Nigeria, Ogun State.