Volume 43 - Article 26 | Pages 745–778  

“Everyone tries to avoid responsibility” The attenuating role of financial obligations in fertility change among Yorùbá farmers of southwestern Nigeria

By Fausat Ibrahim


Background: Demographic discourse is replete with concern over Africa’s high population, with implications that are disturbing for African culture and development. However, the gap in demographic knowledge creation and other unequal socioeconomic dynamics impede the development of emic African demographic perspectives. Moreover, there is a supposition that population growth is in compliance with the demand for children for farming purposes in Africa.

Objective: The objective of this work is to explore fertility motivations among Yorùbá farmers, while being sensitive to generational and gender specificities.

Methods: This is qualitative research that explores, interprets, and describes the narratives of the participants. The data were collected from 12 focus group discussions, 24 in-depth interviews, and 8 key-informant interviews, and analysed inductively.

Results: The results find an extensive pecuniary motivation for fertility reduction. The economic cost of raising children hinders fertility in southwestern Nigeria such that it is converging with the global low fertility regime. Anxiety regarding the inability to meet the financial obligations of childbearing is also reflected in scriptural justifications for pecuniary considerations regarding fertility change. Women farmers are found to be especially affected by economic demands in fertility change.

Contribution: The paper expounds the rational and adaptive character of fertility in a sub-Saharan African culture and vindicates the Caldwellian theory of wealth flows. The findings show that in this population attitudes and experiences are optimal for low fertility.

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