Stories tagged: Uganda

Women and Youth Take on “Man’s Crop” Coffee in Uganda

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8th March, Sam Viney, Communications and Advocacy Officer at Farm Africa, explores how access to land and inputs can include women and youth in Uganda’s coffee boom.

I’m in my twenties but whenever I go to Uganda it makes me feel old! The world’s second youngest country’s median age is 15, and 77% of the population is below 30.

Every day, hundreds of young Ugandans hit the job market. Many find employment, but often not.  

Unemployment in Uganda is rising and young people shoulder the burden. In 2015, one in three young Ugandans was unemployed. When young people find work it’s normally insecure, part-time or unpaid family work. Women are more likely to be unemployed than men.

Uganda’s young people are full of entrepreneurial spirit, and never fail to fill me with confidence in the country’s future. Providing 70% of the country’s employment opportunities and contributing more than half of all exports, agriculture is Uganda’s most obvious vehicle to unleash their potential.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Opportunity is brewing

Uganda’s employment challenge is coupled with rising demand for their most lucrative export: coffee.

There is huge demand for the caffeinated treat, and Kanungu’s tropical climate, in south-western Uganda, provides the perfect conditions to grow it. This should bring opportunities.

Despite this huge potential, limited access to land and low profits stop youth and women from investing in coffee production.

With co-funding from the European Union, the international NGO  has launched a project in Kanungu that develops young people’s skills and links to markets, and helps them gain access to the land they need to become successful coffee entrepreneurs.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Access to land

Like many young Ugandans, Gillian and Dan need more land. The couple has a one-acre coffee farm that they received from Dan’s father Murisa.

Their annual income of £266 “isn’t enough”. If they had more land they’d be able to provide their son, who suffers from life-threatening fits, with much needed medical care.

Dan’s parents could afford to give Gillian and Dan a portion of their 45-acre farm but Murisa isn’t keen on the idea.

In Uganda, land is seen a man’s asset, the eldest man in the family doesn’t like to cede control over land or agricultural decisions to women or younger men.

“Agriculture employs 93% of Kanungu’s residents. Land is in the hands of older men. Youth face hardship accessing land, young women doubly so.” Martin Atukwase, General Secretary of Kanungu Ugandan Young Farmers’ Association. “No land, no opportunity.”

Youth need access to and control over land to invest in coffee. Coffee plants take around five years to bear fruit so young farmers need to start planting early on in their careers to see economic returns later in life.

Farm Africa has helped set up the Kanungu chapter of the Ugandan Young Farmers’ Association. The young leaders were provided with advocacy training, and are calling for greater access to land for women and young people.

The young leaders have hit the ground running, working with TV and radio stations, and organising intergenerational meetings to change fathers’ minds about land.

Land agreements

Farm Africa’s staff in Kanungu are working with families to create agreement amongst family units about land access issues.

These conversations are sensitive. Land is a delicate subject. Uganda has seen a spate of deaths involving young men killing other family members over access to family land.

Many fathers recognise youth and women’s need for land but worry that equipping them with land will undermine their authority and lead to the sale of family land.

Farm Africa sensitively allays these fears by working with fathers and other household members to develop voluntary land use agreements.

The content of the agreements is decided upon by the family. In general, agreements look to provide young people and women with access to and control over what’s grown on a piece of land for a specific period of time. Agreements normally stipulate that the occupant cannot sell land.

These agreements provide young people and women with the opportunity to invest in their businesses and future. The process hopes to kickstart a journey that sees young people go from being job seekers to job creators.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Improve quality

Kanungu’s coffees could be amongst the best in the world but poor farming practices and processing mean that farmers produce low quality coffee, relegating their produce to cheap instant coffee, and other sub-par, markets.

The project is training 4,800 people to grow and process quality coffee and gain access to more lucrative markets.

Many farmers are selling coffee for as little as 10p a kilogram, if they improved coffee quality they could be selling at £2 a kilogram locally in Kanungu and upto £4 a Kilogram in the international markets

In a context of shrinking farm sizes, providing people with the skills and resources necessary to maximise land use and produce quality coffee that fetches a good price is extremely important.

It also makes the land access ask easier: give skilled people the chance to enter a profitable market, unlocking profits that will benefit the whole family.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Coffee, a man’s crop?

In Kanungu, coffee is seen as a man’s crop. Men sell the cash crop and pocket the earnings, while women do the majority of the agricultural work and see little, if any, of the profits.

Farm Africa plans to launch a new project in September 2019 to complement the existing work.  

Made possible by matched funding from the UK government for Farm Africa’s recently launched Coffee is Life appeal, the new project will provide women with the support they need to become actively involved in coffee cooperatives and earn a fair share of coffee production profits.

The project will help women move from providing menial labour harvesting coffee to assuming positions of responsibility actively involved in adding value to the coffee, marketing it and securing good prices from the international speciality coffee market.

Featured photo credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

How Young Women Can Find Opportunities in African Agriculture

By Dace Mahanay, Regional Program Director at STRYDE.

Jennifer, a young mother from Gulu, Uganda, faced bleak prospects after her husband passed away. She had been kicked out of her home by her in-laws and had no job with which to support her family. Without a high school education, she was not optimistic about finding opportunities. “Even casual jobs were not easy to come by, because…not many economically engaging activities were taking place within my village,” she said.

Across sub-Saharan Africa, millions of young women like Jennifer are sidelined from economic opportunities. The International Labor Organization found that one third of young women in the region are not working, studying or receiving training, more than double the rate of their male peers. With more than 6 million young women coming of working age every year, African economies must create more new jobs and business opportunities for them.

But it’s a steep challenge. Across Africa, women generally have less access to education, training, financial services, and assets than men do. In Jennifer’s home country of Uganda, for instance, women own just 5 percent of the land, though they perform much of the labor on family farms. Cultural and traditional views of gender roles can also limit women’s opportunities. Addressing the problem, therefore, requires not only building individual capacity, but also changing the mindsets of families and communities and forging inclusive networks.

That is the mindset behind an entrepreneurship program that has trained tens of thousands of young people across Africa and is now helping local institutions adopt this approach: the Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) program. Since 2011, Mastercard Foundation and TechnoServe have partnered on STRYDE to equip young people in rural communities across Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda with the business and personal skills they need to develop economic opportunities in their communities.

The results of the first phase of the project were striking: the 15,000 STRYDE graduates had achieved average income increases of 133 percent, with 96 percent of participants reporting increased savings. The percentage of “idle” youth (those neither working nor studying) fell by 80 percent. A second phase of the project, which will reach 48,000 additional young people by the time it is completed, is also showing positive results.

Importantly, both female and male graduates have exhibited significant gains. The success of women in the STRYDE program can be attributed to three main factors:

Building skills and personal effectiveness

STRYDE participants receive three months of training on business skills, like saving and managing finances, but also on “soft skills”, like personal effectiveness and goal-setting. The participants also receive nine months of tailored “aftercare” and mentorship support to reinforce the content of the training and support youth in opportunity identification. This focus on both hard and soft skills is especially important for women, who typically receive little encouragement to think entrepreneurially.

Jennifer moved back with her parents and enrolled in the STRYDE program. She soon began to see economic opportunities all around her.

“As a family, we had a chunk of land. But I had never thought of agriculture as business, but for only growing food for household consumption,” Jennifer said. After receiving training, she asked to use an acre of her brother’s idle land to try her hand at commercial farming. Now, she earns more than $800 per harvest season from her eggplants, okra, and tomatoes, and she can pay for her children’s school fees. “My children are now assured of a better future thanks to the knowledge and skills that I acquired during the training,” she said.

Engaging families

In some households, husbands, parents, and in-laws view women’s roles as primarily domestic, and do not see why young women should attend training, work outside the home, or access family resources for a business. In many cases, these family members exercise a sort of veto power over the ambitions of women.

As a result, STRYDE has worked to engage both men and women on the issue of gender. A training module – “We Can Fly” –  helps participants understand the impact of gender norms and highlights concrete benefits of women and men both contributing economically and making decisions together.

In Rwanda, for instance, a STRYDE participant named Philippe decided to start a new business growing and selling vegetables alongside his wife. He asked her to go into business with him, he explained, because of how the program had changed his ideas around gender. Previously, he thought a woman’s role was at home. After seeing the success that female STRYDE participants were achieving in their businesses, however, he realized that his wife could also contribute to the family’s income.

Building strong networks and access to markets

Farmers and entrepreneurs need access to customers and suppliers, as well as mentors and peers who can offer advice. Unfortunately, in rural Africa, women tend to have fewer of these linkages.

The STRYDE program takes several steps to address this. First, the mixed-gender training encourages male and female participants to build connections. Because men tend to have larger business networks at the beginning, the female STRYDE participants can take advantage of those linkages. The program’s aftercare component is also designed to improve access to networks and markets–for example, by providing young women with tradeskills training from established entrepreneurs or introducing participants to outgrower schemes.

Networks were key to the success of Rose, a STRYDE graduate in Kenya. Before joining the program, Rose worked in her uncle’s agrovet shop. But after going through the training, she decided to go into business herself.

With her new business skills, Rose was able to successfully apply for a small loan to start her own agrovet store. She credits the program with strengthening her communication and negotiation skills, which helped her attract customers. She now supplies animal feeds to two cooperatives, an important source of income for her. ““I am now able to pay school fees for my   three siblings, who are still in school. I am happy to have lessened the burden of raising my young brothers and sisters on my mother, a single mother who really struggled to put us through school,” she said.

The impact of gender equality

Women entrepreneurs like Rose are not only helping themselves and their families; they are also providing essential services for others. This proves an essential point: empowering women economically not only benefits individuals and communities, but society as a whole. According to a UNDP report, closing the gender gap in pay and access to paid work would add an extra $95 billion to the economies of sub-Saharan Africa every year.

By equipping women with the right skills and mindset, addressing gender norms in households and communities, and ensuring that women have access to networks and markets, we can help close that gap.

This article originally appeared on the Chicago Council’s Food for Thought blog.

#FillTheGap! Sowing the seeds of equal access to resources in Uganda

This is the fourth post of Farming First’s #FillTheGap campaign to highlight the gender gap facing rural women working in agriculture.

As a young woman growing up in Northern Uganda, tradition didn’t allow Nancy Adong, 26, to own land, only to farm on her husband’s family’s land and only then with his permission.

Her situation is far from uncommon, presenting an immediate disadvantage for millions of rural women, who work in agriculture in greater numbers than men.

Continue reading

Lawrence Biyika Songa: The Cost of Climate Change for Ugandan Farmers

Q&A with Lawrence Biyika Songa, COP representative for Uganda

At the COP22 conference on climate change, held in Marrakech in November, the spotlight fell squarely on Africa and the impact of global warming on agriculture. Farming First caught up with Lawrence Biyika Songa, Uganda’s representative at the talks, to delve deeper into the issues facing farmers in the country.

FF: How is climate change affecting farmers in Uganda?

LBS: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) summarises climate change as any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity. This is equally true in Uganda. Unsustainable utilisation of natural resources and poor technological use has increased incidences of greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, 90 per cent of energy consumption in Uganda is met by firewood, amounting to 18 million tonnes of emissions a year.

The impact of such activity has been increased weather variability, with greater frequency and intensity of weather extremes, including high temperatures leading to prolonged drought and erratic rainfall patterns. These incidences are threatening Uganda’s environmental, social and economic development, including agriculture.

Changing weather patterns in Uganda are making it difficult for farmers in the country to plan using the traditional two planting seasons, which used to be much easier to predict. Previously the weather pattern indicated two good planting seasons, March to May and September to November. Now, however, rainfall sometimes continues during the dry seasons, and prolonged dry spells during rainy seasons make it difficult for farmers to plan ahead.

Other challenges related to climate change include tropical storms, wildfire, siltation, soil erosion, pests and diseases which are causing devastating loss to farmer’s yields.

So there are five main ways that climate change is impacting farming in Uganda: (i) the area suitable for agriculture is becoming unpredictable (ii) the length of the growing season is more difficult to forecast (iii) yield potentials are varying and decreasing (iv) the frequency and severity of extreme events (in particular droughts and floods) are extreme (v) the incidence of plant diseases are high. And, in the case of livestock climate change may affect production through: (i) impacts on the quantity and quality of feed (ii) increasing heat stress (iii) changes to and spread of livestock diseases and (iv) changes in water availability.

FF: Is climate change affecting Uganda’s economy?

LBS: Yes. The National Development Plan 2010-2015 on climatic projections indicates that Uganda’s temperatures are likely to increase in the range of 0.70 C to 1.50 C by 2020. As a consequence, it has placed Uganda in a more vulnerable position. The 2nd UN World Water Development Report 2006 shows that 70 per cent of the disasters in the country are linked to climate change. On average these disasters destroy about 800,000 hectares of crops, with an economic loss in excess of Ushs 120 billion (US$ 63.2million) per year.

Climate change and associated extreme weather incidents have also impacted public health. The 1994 El Niño floods resulted in sharp rises in lakes, wide spread flooding, and extensive soil erosion and landslides in Eastern parts of the country. It’s believed that more than 1,000 lives were lost and 11,000 hospitalised due to cholera and related illness, and about 150,000 people were displaced from their homes.

Meanwhile, the 2010-2011 droughts caused an estimated US$470 million losses in food crops, cash crops and livestock as a whole. This equates to about 16 per cent of the total value of these items in GDP for 2011. The current and future increased risks from flooding and droughts are in areas of existing poverty and therefore these events have serious consequences for local economies and food security.

FF: Are there any tools and technologies that are helping Ugandan farmers to adapt to climate change?

LBS: Yes, they are using more efficient water-management technologies such as advanced drip irrigation and solar irrigation. Agricultural research is also developing other new and effective approaches to adapt to climate change. For example, scientists are studying and using beneficial microbes from soil to strengthen plant resilience to increased drought, diseases and pests brought on by climate change.

Farmers are also actively participating in the collection of climate-related data. The information from millions of smallholders farmers monitoring daily weather changes, rainfall levels and patterns and soil health are shedding light on general climate trends and guiding farming practices.

Lastly, farmers are being advised not to plant on farm land with clogged water and for farmers living in mountainous areas, they are advised to practice terracing and lay farrows to reduce run offs from heavy rains

FF: What are the barriers preventing farmers from accessing these tools and technologies?

LBS: The ability of farmers’ to adapt varies enormously depending on the region and its wealth. Uganda’s farmers often lack basic resources and choices such as money as the adoption of these methods is difficult without access to credit and readily available funds. Millions of farmers in Uganda also lack access to information about the scope of climate level changes they are experiencing. Without such information, they are unable to plan and adjust their farming practices to be sustainable for the long term with new tools and technologies. Social networks among rural farmers always help spread the use of new technology, given the prevelant communal sense among Ugandan farmers. Finally, differences in expected returns from a new technology also affect individual’s adaptation decisions.

FF: Have you met many farmers that are struggling with successfully adapting to climate change?

LBS: In many Ugandan villages, smallholder farmers are struggling to use simple technologies to monitor extreme weather and its impacts on their families and community. They are finding it difficult to detect early indications of changing rainfall patterns that would likely effect the growing season. Secondly, farmers are struggling with how to identify and manage the planting of drought-tolerant crop varieties, exotic breeds and using low cost, simple drip irrigation due to illiteracy and cost management practices.

FF: How is the Ugandan government supporting farmers to adapt to climate change?

LBS: The government of Uganda has come up with priorities for adaptation options. In the National Climate Change Costed Implementation Strategy, the government of Uganda has identified eight strategic interventions for adaptation in the agricultural sector, with a proposed budget over the next 15 years of about US$297 million (MWE, 2012). Among these interventions are the promotion of adaptive crop varieties and livestock breeds, sustainable land management and agricultural diversification.

The government’s meteorological agency, UNMA, has provided and disseminated weather information and forecasts. Farmers are therefore advised to rely on expert advice as to when they should plant for the most favourable climate conditions. The government has also embarked on farmer sensitization and awareness campaigns. For example, experts have promoted the planting of grass on the steps of mountains among farmers living on the slopes of Mountain Elgon in Eastern Uganda and those from Mountain Rwenzori to stop run-offs from heavy rains.

Finally, farmers are being advised to grow quick maturing crops such as vegetables when there is a prediction of prolonged dry spells, and they are further advised to grow cereal crops which are tolerant to drought. NGOs are also helping the government through promotion of new agricultural technologies such as agricultural extension services, which provide farmers with information about agricultural practises, including sowing, adoption of improved seeds and chicken breeds.

FF: Do you think COP22 was indeed a ‘’COP of Action’’?

LBS: Yes, thanks to the Marrakech Proclamation of Climate Action and the Partnership for Global Climate Action as the conference’s main outcomes. The political commitment to implementing the Paris Agreement has been revived in the most ardent fashion with the Marrakech Proclamation.

Writing the rule book, or operational manual, of the Paris Agreement calls for a significant boost of transparency of action, including measuring and accounting emissions reductions, the provision of climate finance, and technology development and transfer. It also includes work to design the adaptation communications, which is the primary vehicle under the Paris Agreement to share individual adaptation efforts and support needs.

FF: What action do you think the global community should be taking?

LBS: Governments should initiate powerful coalitions of public and private partners in technology initiatives for weather. About two thirds of Africans now have mobile phones, including many in rural areas, and these could play an integral part in the collection of weather and soil data. Data collected by farmers on their phones could then be aggregated and analysed by designated research institutions and shared with farmers.

Local governments could also adjust disaster response plans to accommodate changes in weather patterns. For example, the city of Philadelphia recently implemented an emergency response plan to limit the health impact of increasingly frequent heat waves on its population. Philadelphia officials estimate that their heat response plan has already reduced heat-related deaths.

For individuals, governments, and businesses, adapting to climate change requires understanding and accepting the risks of regional climate change, assessing the immediate and long-term costs and benefits of adaptation strategies, and implementing adaptations that bring the most benefits relative to the cost and risk.

Featured image courtesy of Kate Holt/Africa Practice

Video: Stepping Up Agricultural Production in Uganda

Access to information is holding back agricultural production in Uganda, the President of the Uganda National Farmers Federation tells Farming First TV in a brand new interview. “Farmers need to be better informed on when to plant, how to plant and how to select the enterprises they want to get into,” he comments. Continue reading

Rose Akaki: The voice of a female farmer

Today, in the lead up to International Women’s Day on 8th March, Farming First captures the voice of a female smallholder farmer who highlights the challenges still faced by women each day as they strive to provide nutritious food for their families in Uganda. Rose Akaki rears cattle for beef and grows maize, both of which she sells to local schools to feed the children. She has recently started to keep bees.

How much of the land do women in Uganda own?

About 80% of farmers in Uganda are women, producing 60% of food but they only own 1% of land they use for farming; a meagre percentage. The rest of the land is under the control of men, as land ownership in Uganda is a preserve of men. So, what is planted on such land is dictated by them. They decide which crops can be planted. For instance, a man can decide to use the land to grow cash crops like tobacco or sugar cane that fetch a higher price at the market, and yet these crops are not food crops. This implies that the size of land that women use for agriculture is very limited, and whatever is produced from such land is limited to household consumption. Furthermore, this land is overused and has low fertility.

Is there any technology to help women boost yields?

Ox ploughs are starting to come in, but most women still use a hand hoe. This means farming is very labour intensive. A lot of the work is done by women, who also have many other care giving tasks to complete. So we really need technology to reduce the time and energy a woman spends on the farm so that she can do other things and grow more food to feed her family. We are a long way off from having tractors – there are a few privately owned tractors but a rural woman farmer will not have the money to hire them.

Do any extension services reach your community?

Extension services do exist but you have to pay for them. If I need a vet to look at my cows, then I have to pay for his transport, expertise and the drugs he will recommend, and then feed the person when they visit my house, it is quite discouraging for a smallholder farmer.

Are women able to sell surplus crops?

People can sell what they want but peak season is a problem. Everyone has the same product so the price gets lower. We need effective storage systems so we can get a better price for our crops later in the year. This also calls for getting organised in groups.

Do women have access to finance?

This is a big challenge. The Government of Uganda has encouraged people to go into microfinance, but loans come with demands. A rural women farmer who only owns a tiny amount of land may not have the collateral to put down as security. What our farmers’ organisation has done to address this is to encourage women to form groups, called Savings and Co-operative Societies in villages. Every week women are encouraged to put something in a saving box, this accumulates and you are then able to borrow from that box to cater for your farm and family needs.

What recommendations would you make to policymakers?

More money could be spent on agriculture. In Uganda, agriculture is the backbone of the economy and more money would do a lot of good in the sector. Also, smallholder farmers, especially women rural farmers, should be part of the policy making process, so they can articulate the issues that concern them. Sometimes policies are made for us and we don’t get the benefits.

The government is already doing a lot to ensure sustained agricultural production, but implementation of the policies is often a problem. There are many good policies on land rights, ownership and modernisation of agriculture. I call upon our farmer organisations to monitor the implementation of such policies so that the smallholder farmer can benefit and government can see the value of their investments.

What is your final message as a female farmer on International Women’s Day?

Rural women farmers produce most of the food to feed the family. These women should be empowered to improve their productivity, by giving them access to land, better tools to till the land, seeds and agrochemicals, access to financial services to improve their farm practices, information on weather, but also affordable agricultural extension services. Then, women can produce more food for the growing population.