Growing rice, empowering women: Providing tools for Nigerian women rice farmers to prosper

Speeches Shim

Thursday, May 19, 2022
A view from the sky above, Hauwa on her rice farm. Photo credit: WACOT Rice
A view from the sky above, Hauwa on her rice farm.

Nigerian women play a vital role in food and agriculture. It is estimated that women smallholder farmers constitute 37% percent of the labor force. They produce much of the food for domestic consumption and they are the drivers of food processing, marketing and preservation. 

In spite of their important contribution in the agricultural sector, they have limited access to land, credit facilities, farm inputs, training and advice, and technology. Very few have holding rights on the land where they farm in Nigeria, with many working in the fields unpaid and little say in how earnings are spent.

With a rapidly growing population of over 200 million, and hunger and malnutrition prevalent, ramping up local production of dominant staples like rice is crucial for Nigeria to attain food security and lift millions of people out of poverty. 


USAID understands that building a food secure future in Nigeria starts when women are empowered to own and manage their own land and produce. In partnership with Feed the Future and the Nigerian-based Trade Hub, thousands of women farmers are getting the tools, knowledge and resources to improve their incomes and the lives of their families and communities.

It Is believed that if women had the same access to finance, land, technology, and training advice as men, they could contribute significantly to the achievement of the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger in the country. 

Hauwa Musa is one of those empowered farmers. Through a USAID co-investment grant with WACOT Rice, she managed to lift her and her family out of poverty. Being the second child in an extended family of four wives and 16 children, it was not easy. ​​While studying at University, her father died and she was obligated to return home to provide for her siblings. She inherited a two acre plot of land and began to seed rice. With no funds she sold her cellular phone and got her cousin to labor in the farm for free. She knew nothing about rice cultivation and soon lost everything to flooding.

Hauwa monitors the growth of her healthy paddy. Photo credit: WACOT Rice
Hauwa monitors the growth of her healthy paddy.
"I was determined to succeed on my farm despite men thinking that I could not or that I did not have the right. I wanted to prove them wrong."

Before giving up, she heard about the capacity building program that WACOT Rice had initiated in her region with rice farmers.  WACOT Rice is a rice processing company that operates a state-of-the-art rice mill in Argungu, Kebbi State, Nigeria. The mill is one of the largest rice mills in Africa and sources paddy from various paddy producing states across Nigeria. WACOT Rice also engages in out-grower farming programs with farmers to boost their yields and guarantee off-take of paddy from farmers through buyback arrangements.

WACOT Rice mill. Photo credit: WACOT Rice
WACOT Rice mill.

In partnership with USAID and Feed the Future, they are currently training smallholder rice farmers in techniques that help to increase yields by 50 to 100%, allowing them to earn more, and lift themselves out of poverty. The program, called the Argungu Outgrower Expansion Program, focuses on increasing the number of female rice farmers in order to improve financial security in the region. WACOT offers skills training, financial assistance, access to quality seeds, improved fertilizers and equipment.


Hauwa joined the program, tried again with her paddy, and began to earn profits. She  went from harvesting 16 bags of rice in her first season to 160 bags. Her successes have earned her respect in her community, so much so that she is now advising other women farmers as a WACOT field officer. Due to her efforts along with WACOT's, the number of female rice farmers has increased from 85 to 401 in less than a year.

Hauwa trains men in the field about best practices in rice farming. Photo credit: WACOT Rice
Hauwa trains men in the field about best practices in rice farming.

Promoting gender equality in agricultural value chains is important to reducing poverty and creating food security in the region. WACOT Rice is proving that, and with a little assistance, women farmers like Hauwa are improving their incomes, managing crop sales and setting an example for other women to follow. 

About this program: The West Africa Trade Hub, funded by the USAID/West Africa Regional Mission, is a one-stop shop that partners with banks/financial institutions to provide financial support and business development services, capacity building, and best practices with the aim of making businesses viable and export ready, especially for the U.S. markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Over a five year period and $140 million worth of funds, the Trade Hub is working with bilateral missions to co-create and co-manage support to various sectors in order to boost trade and exports, create jobs, and empower women economically with a strong gender target of 50 percent women. 

Learn more: Promoting Gender Equitable Opportunities in Agricultural Value Chains 

Last updated: May 19, 2022

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