This study is focused on the analysis of women empowerment in tomato production and processing as a means of household poverty status in Ondo State, Nigeria. Women in Ondo State were empowered by VTEP in order to improve their living standard and there was therefore the need to evaluate the impact of the programme on the women‟s income, productivity and poverty status. Primary data were collected from the farmers and processors who were participants or non-participants in Vegetable and Tuber Expansion Programme (VTEP) through the use of structured questionnaires. Purposive sampling was used to select the LGAs and villages, while random sampling was used to select the respondents and 12% (199) of the sample frame was used for this study. Tools for analyses were descriptive statistics such as frequency, tables, percentages, FGT, double difference estimators and multiple regressions. The results of the analysis showed that mean age for participants and non-participants farmers were 40 and 37 years and the mean age for participant and non-participant processors were 40 and 39 years respectively. Results of intensity of tomato production revealed that factors such as age(p<0.001), occupation(p<0.01) and agro-chemicals(p<0.01) significantly influenced the intensity of tomato production and the results of intensity of tomato processing showed that years of participation (p<0.0001) and extension visits (p<0.01)were statistically significant and influenced the intensity of tomato processing. The results from FGT revealed that poverty depth for participants (farmers) were 0.19 and 0.17 while for non-participants, 0.17 and 0.14 also the poverty severity for participants (farmers) were 0.07 and 0.02 and about 0.07 and 0.05 for non-participants (farmers) before and after the empowerment programme. Results for double difference estimators revealed that the values were positive with mean increase percentage values of 57.64% and 27.87% for participants and non-participants (farmers) and about 32.65% and 23.88% participants and non-participant (processors). This indicates that the empowerment programme impacted positively on the participants‟ income, productivity and poverty status for farmers and processors. The multiple regression estimates revealed that when time and participation acted together, the variables of income, productivity and poverty status were significant at both 1% and 5% levels of probability indicating that time and participation in an empowerment programme significantly influences the income, productivity and poverty status of the participant farmers and processors. The major problems encountered by the farmers and processors were inadequate capital which was the major constraint to women empowerment followed by inadequate training by extension agents and poor market price for produce. In conclusion, it can be noted that women who participated in the VTEP had increases in their income, productivity and poverty status. Thus, it was therefore recommended that due to the improvement in the poverty status of participants in the VTEP, more empowerment programmes should be established by government in areas where there are high levels of poverty incidence so that poverty in those areas can be alleviated.

1.1 Background to the study
Women can be described as an indispensible group in the development of any nation (Safiya, 2011). Women play significant and potentially transformative roles in agricultural growth in developing countries, but they face unrelenting obstacles and economic constraints limiting further contribution in agriculture. Women are responsible, in addition to seeking livelihoods, for keeping their homes and providing for their children (Lawanson,2003). Women have great potentials necessary to evolve a new economic order, to accelerate social and political development and consequently transform the society into a better one (Safiya, 2011). Kayodeet al., (2013) described Nigerian women as a crucial factor for production. According to him, they assume this status because they are largely responsible for the bulk of crops production, agro-based food processing, preservation of crops and distribution of outputs or products from farm centers to urban areas. The importance of women in the agricultural development as stated above cannot be overemphasized and this has led to the empowerment of more women in production and processing of various crops such as Tomato, maize and yam. The Government in collaboration with other private bodies has helped to empower women in order to improve their standard of living. Empowering women can mean the provision of sufficient opportunities to women to develop their potentials and contribute to the overall development of the nation. Empowering women particularly in the area of agriculture has been done using tomato which is a low risk crop with high yielding potential and a developed market for its sales. Tomato has been identified as a very powerful poverty fighter by driving down the price of food to millions of consumers (Iheke, 2008). Tomato is the third-largest source of food carbohydrates in the tropics. Uche et al., (2008) stated that Tomato is a staple food crop in Ondo State consumed majorly as gari by households with a population of about2,371,089million people. Nigeria is the world's largest producer of tomato; its production is put at about 37.5 million metric tonnes per year (Food Agricultural Organization, 2013). This production performance has rated Nigeria as the largest cultivator of tomato in the world. In 2002, tomato suddenly gained prominence in Nigeria following the pronouncement of a presidential initiative on the crop. The initiative was aimed at using tomato production as the engine of growth in Nigeria. In recent times, government has encouraged the use of the crop to produce a wide range of industrial products such as syrup and bread (Fakayode et al., 2008).

Tomato can be cultivated with family labour, land, hoe and machete, making it analternative and low-risk crop for poor women farmers. Also, tomato is available to low- income rural households in the farming of simple food products which are significantly cheaper than grains such as rice, maize and wheat (FAO, 2006).

Today, it is a condition in which all people have access at all times to enough food of an adequate nutritional quality for a healthy and active life (Tollens, 2000). There are four dimensions to this: (i) availability of sufficient amount of food which is a function of food production

(ii) stability of supply over time which depends on the ability to preserve/store produced food and supplement available food through imports if necessary (iii) access to the available food which depends on income levels and its distribution and (iv) food utilization which encompasses procurement, ingestion and digestion all of which are dependent on nutritional quality, education and health (Tollens, 2000). Food security exists at both the macro and micro levels. National Food Security (NFS), the macro dimension, is possession by a nation of the capacity to procure enough food through production or imports to feed its population and one of the ways in achieving food security is by empowering the people. Empowerment is both a process and an outcome. Depending on how it is used, the two are indistinguishable. Empowerment has for the most part remained rooted in the local communities, in the needs of the „poorest of the poor‟ especially women (Desai and Potter, 2008). Women‟s empowerment is therefore more than simply a „motherhood‟ term for development agencies (Desai and Potter, 2008). According to the Ghanaian Times (2006), Women empowerment concerns itself with giving women the ability or opportunity to better their own lives and society in general. It has nothing to do with competition with men but rather partnering and complementing to ensure growth and prosperity for a nation. Buvinic (2006), posited that women empowerment is not only a holistic concept but also multi-dimensional in its approach and covers social, political, economic and social aspects. Empowering Nigerian women is important because they labour and live under stress and are overwhelmed by the responsibilities in their lives; those created by the society and themselves and they are expected to perform their traditional roles such as running their homes efficiently and be good wives and step-mothers. They are also expected to contribute to their family income so that the household income will increase when combined with that of the male household head. Nweke etal, ,(2002) stated that women in tomato production can be empowered through the provision of improved tomato varieties, use of fertilizer, use of agrochemicals, and use of improved harvesting equipment. Women are and have always been users of technology as well as men. The issue is the kind of technologies women use for different kinds of activities and the position of women in production process, such that they can acquire and utilize new technologies. Hence, the introduction of the Vegetable and Tuber Expansion Programme (VTEP) which was designed with the overall objective of achieving a sustained increase in the production of tomato, yam, cocoyam and potatoes as well as their end products. VTEP was planned by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in conjunction with the Federal Government of Nigeria following the completion of tomato multiplication project (CMP) (Ugwu, et al., 1996). In December 1999, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) approved a credit of 23.05 million U.S. Dollars to the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) for VTEP. The main thrust of the programme was to consolidate gains made under the tomato multiplication programme (CMP) in order to enhance national food security and income for poor farmers(Ugwu, et al., 1996). According to the VTEP implementation manual, (Ondo State Agricultural Development Programme, 2006), the program focused on available low-cost technologies that could be easily adopted by poor farmers, a combination of improved tomato, yam, sweet potatoes and cocoyam varieties, and also improved cultural practices, given the high cost of inputs and the restricted access to credit by small scale farmers. The project aimed at exposing farmers to improved root and tuber crops production and processing technique designed to fit into the existing root and tuber based farming systems in Nigeria. The goal of VTEP was to improve the living conditions, incomes and food security of small holder households in the project area through increases in the production of the VTEP crops as well as processing and marketing of their end product (KWADP, 2006). The overall target group is about 5.2 million small holders with less than 2 to 3 hectares of land holding per household in Nigeria. This translates to about 200,000 small holders per participating state (KWADP, 2006).

The Ondo State Government through the VTEP engaged and empowered women in the State in tomato production and processing. This was done through the provision of improved tomato cuttings, subsidized cost of input such as fertilizer, insecticide, supply of modern peelers and graters. The Vegetable and Tuber Expansion Programme (VTEP) particularly encouraged rural women farmers to engage in the production and processing of root and tuber crops and also in the marketing of these crops in order to improve their standard of living and in turn alleviate poverty in Ondo State and the nation as a whole (KWADP, 2006).

1.2 Statement of the Problem
Poverty is simply the state of being poor. It is a life situation of having little or no means of survival(Fakoya et al., 2010). For instance, having no food, shelter, clothes, basic health care, education and other means of improving one‟s life. Poverty alleviation therefore involves improving the living conditions of people who are already poor. (Fakoya et al.,2010). Poverty is one of the developmental problems facing Nigeria particularly Ondo State being prevalent in rural areas where the main occupation is farming (Adekemi et al., 2012). This implies that if farming operations can be improved in the rural areas, poverty will be alleviated to a reasonable extent.

In some states in Nigeria, rural women are gradually taking over the production and processing of root and tuber crops (Afolabi, 2008). However, factors militating against women in their participation in agricultural production are many, some of which are socio- cultural and economic in nature. Also, the population of women in educational, economic, social and political programme is low, and has led to a serious set-back in the economy, thus the need for women empowerment (Safiya,2011). The existing women-focused development programmes such as Vegetable and Tuber Expansion Programmes aimed at the rural household ought to be assessed and strengthened to achieve greater impact. Hence, the need to evaluate the impact of VTEP on the women‟s income, productivity and poverty status.This study was therefore conducted with the primary aim of analysing the impact of empowering the women in production and processing on household poverty status.

1.3 Research Questions
1. what are the socio economic characteristics of women tomato farmers and processors in the study area?
2. What are the factors that influence the intensity of production of women tomato farmers and processors in the study area?
3. What is the impact of empowering women tomato farmers and processors on their income, productivity and poverty status?
4. What are the constraints to women empowerment in the study area?

1.4 Objectives of the study
The main objective of the study was to analyse women empowerment in tomato production and processing as a means of household poverty status in Ondo State. The specific objectives were as follow;

1. describe the socio economic characteristics of tomato women farmers and processors in the study area;

2. determine the factors that influence the intensity of tomato production among farmers and processors in the study area;

3. assess the impact of empowering tomato women farmers and processors on their income, productivity and poverty status; and

4. identify the constraints to women empowerment in the study area.

1.5 Research Hypotheses
i. There is no significant difference in the income of participants and non-participants in tomato production and processing.

ii. There is no significant difference in the productivity of participants and non-participants in tomato production and processing.

iii. There is no significant difference in the poverty status of participants and non- participants in tomato production and processing.

1.6 Justification for the study
In different parts of the world, rural women as smallholder farmers and landless workers, play a major role in supporting their households and communities in achieving food and nutrition security, generating income, and improving rural livelihoods and overall well- being (IWD, 2012). Women contribute to agriculture and rural enterprises, thereby improving local economies directly and global economies by expansion. They perform most of the unpaid labor in rural areas (IWD, 2012). They are however faced with unrelenting obstacles that limits their contribution to agricultural growth and development. Therefore, empowering women would represent a prudent investment in a nation‟s development through a fairer system of distribution of wealth and power among people and greater access of women to agricultural inputs. Education and skills acquisition are empowerment tools for poverty alleviation. If properly acquired, these are capable of increasing agricultural yields, rural income and improved quality of life for rural women and their families. Nevertheless, little work has been done in the study area to assess the impact of women empowerment programmes to household poverty alleviation There was therefore the need to evaluate the impact of VTEP on poverty status of women tomato producers and processors and this study is expected to bridge knowledge gap in the area of empowerment by revealing the current status of poverty which will in turn be useful in formulating relevant policies on women empowerment in the study area.

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