A serious consideration of the developmental prospects of the non-farm sector requires a more careful assessment of existing debates on its developmental capacity and socio-economic impact. Increasing concerns about the environmental sustainabihty of African agriculture, and the dramatic impact of economic crisis and structural adjustment drew attention to the role of ecology, policy, and household livelihood strategies in determining the economic importance of the non-farm sector. Contrary to the conventional image of rural Africa, non-farm activities have always played a significant role in the rural economy of the northern Nigerian savanna. Increasing awareness of the importance of women's incomes added a gender dimension to debates about the impact of non-farm incomes on rural inequality. Agricultural development programmes and large-scale irrigation schemes tended to further erode women's already restricted access to agricultural resources, while simultaneously expanding the profitability of women's non-farm activities.