Stories tagged: women

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

Sustainable Pasture Practices Double Milk Production in Colombia

By adopting environmentally-friendly pasture management methods, female dairy farmers can unlock a dormant cattle industry, Jessica Joye writes on behalf of Fintrac. 

La Montañita, a small town located in southwest Colombia, is an area rich in biodiversity and home to two of the country’s largest waterways. However, despite these ecological benefits, the region has been plagued by violence, illicit crop production, and rampant deforestation.

Given the region’s long history of cattle ranching, USAID’s Producers to Markets Alliance (PMA) program, implemented by Fintrac, is partnering with the Association for Economic Solidarity of Central and Lower Cagúan (ASOES) to establish Sustainable Pasture Divisions (DSPs) for 565 rural dairy farmers. DSP is an environmentally-friendly pasture management method based on rotational grazing and pasture divisions. Cattle are placed into pens with high-nutrient fodder grass to restrict overfeeding on one particular area of land. The pens are rotated seasonally as new grass is planted and appropriate for grazing. This method helps cattle optimize nutritional benefits from grass and increase milk production while also ensuring other vegetation is safe from overfeeding.

Flor Maria Gutiérrez Laguna is one of 149 women who are becoming leaders in their community by adopting new methodologies such as DSPs. Flor Maria began with 26 hectares of land divided into four lots; working with ASOES and PMA, she put three hectares under the DSP methodology and quickly began to see an increase in milk productivity thanks to improved access to water for her herd, as well as less damage to her pasture from grazing.

Upon seeing these results, she invested more than $1,000 of her own funds to implement DSP practices on the rest of her land. She also invested in a cement structure to elevate her aqueduct and improve her drinking stations, which she installed with PMA assistance. These improvements have saved her up to two hours per day in water collection – time she can now dedicate to other income-generating activities.

The impact of these activities on her quality of life has been significant.

“Thanks to the program, I have doubled my production. Before, I averaged about 25 liters per day with my 15 dairy cows, and now I am selling 50 liters per day,” she says.

“The extra income helped me invest in more materials for my farm, but most importantly, it has helped me pay for my son’s engineering school, a dream that had been put on hold until recently.”

PMA is bringing hope and opportunity to a region previously plagued with violence and illegality, offering new technologies and effective methods of production for Caquetá’s dairy farmers, empowering them to build a sustainable economic path for future generations.

Featured photo credit: Fintrac/Jessica Joye. Flor Maria Gutierrez Laguna is working with Fintrac’s PMA program to implement improved pasture practices for her 15-cow herd. Since adopting these new methods, she’s seen milk production double. She’s investing her additional income into farm and home improvements as well as her family’s education.

 

OCT152018
International Day of Rural Women

15th October 2018

Global

The first International Day of Rural Women was observed on 15 October 2008. This international day, established by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of 18 December 2007, recognizes “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”

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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.

Agricultural Businesses Are the Key to “Decent Work” in Rural Communities

Decent agricultural work can be a vehicle for economic growth. Kristin Williams, Communications Manager at Root Capital, tells Farming First how investments can empower smallholder farmers.

Farming is hard work. This is especially true on the world’s 500 million smallholder farms, which rely almost entirely on informal family labor. There, farmers rise before the sun, and toil in plots of land just large enough to grow food for the table and perhaps one or two crops for sale. Sudden shockslike drought, flood, or diseasecan wipe out the fruits of their labor in an instant. If they’re lucky, they can get their crops to a nearby market; once there, they have little recourse if buyers refuse to give a fair price.

Billions of people make their living in this difficult way. And it’s no coincidence that they comprise much of the world’s extreme poor, surviving on less than $2 per day. But the connection between farming and poverty is not a foregone conclusion. Yes, farming is hard work; but with targeted investments it can also be “decent work.”

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Monica Maigari: My Message on the International Day of Rural Women

To celebrate the International Day of Rural Women, we interviewed Monica Maigari, a Nigerian farmer who has been named a “Female Food Hero” by Oxfam. Monica spoke at the session “Food Security in Crisis” at the Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa.

FF: How did you begin your career as a farmer?

MM: I was first introduced to farming as an elementary student. The teachers would take us to the countryside in the evening where we would work in the gardens and learn about farming. I took an interest and learned much. After marriage, my husband and I as teachers made little money. So I began farming to supplement our income.

FF: What are the challenges farmers face in your region?

MM: In our region, one of the main difficulties is access to the equipment that can make our agriculture less labour intensive. In addition, reliable access to improved seeds and inputs can be a real challenge. Finally, for women, the right to inherit and have title to land is difficult.

FF: Is climate change affecting your region?

MM: Yes. The main difference is in the timing and duration of the annual rainy season. One year the rains may come late; the next year they may be very early. For example, farmers in my region of Kaduna state usually plant rice in July to coincide with the annual rains. However, this year the rains came early and our rice harvest will be very small.

FF: How have you overcome these challenges?

MM: I have sought out education and worked to develop test plots that not only help me to try new techniques and seeds, but also help other women to learn more modern practices of farming – in seed spacing, rotation with legumes, and moisture retention.

FF: Do you think women face more difficulties than male farmers? 

MM: Yes. Women especially have difficulty in have secure access to land. Men are most often the landowners in the family, so if a woman is widowed she often cannot inherit the land. And yet, women are the majority of those that work the land and produce the crops, but often have the least ability to obtain credit. In addition, many extension programs are directed to men, and women are not as accepted.

FF: How have you overcome these difficulties?

MM: Like other Female Food Heroes, I have worked to form women’s groups where we share knowledge, and create opportunities for work and added value in our crops. Women mentoring and working with other women is a powerful tool.

FF: How did you get involved in the Female Food Hero Competition?

MM: A local organization came to my community with an application for the Nigeria Ogbonge Woman completion sponsored in part by Oxfam. I applied and out of over 1,200 women, I was one of twelve finalists. I then went on to take a 2nd position. Using the proceeds from that initiative, I was able to purchase the land I farmed, work as an advocate for small-scale women farmers in my region and also in other countries like Ethiopia and the U.S.

FF: How did it feel to win the competition?

MM: At first I had no words. I was the only woman winner from my state of Kaduna. I am happy that my winning is allowing me to help other women farmers, and advocate for the rights to land and the need to address climate change.

FF: What are your hopes for the future of your farm?

MM: I hope that I can continue to improve and add value to my farm, so that as I get older I will be able to sell it to another farmer and be able to use that money to benefit other women, my community, and the world.

FF: What is your message to other female farmers on International Day of Rural Women?

MM: My message is that women must join together to build a better food system, and to advocate for our rights to land, tools, and education.