On 27th October 2023, ESAFF Uganda, through the ESAFF Women Forum together with partners, organised the 5th Women in Agriculture (WiA) Conference, an annual event that empowers small-scale women in agriculture. This year, with support from Oxfam in Uganda, Humundi and GIZ, the 5th National Women in Agriculture (WiA) Conference was conducted under the theme “Equal access and control of agricultural resources for all”. Small-scale women from 54 districts under the ESAFF Women Forum, a platform set up by ESAFF Uganda to purposefully position women’s issues for policy and practice change in Uganda. Apart from small-scale farmers, the conference also attracted local leaders, investors, and farmer leaders, among others. The discussions focused on the constraints they face in accessing equal rights of agricultural resources and what should be done for them to have equal access.
The National Chairperson ESAFF Uganda Mr Hakim Baliraine, acknowledged that 88% of women in Uganda engage in agriculture, and from the majority of the ESAFF Uganda membership districts, women have been empowered in different capacities to enable them to achieve equal access to agricultural resources. “Over 70% of the women empowered by ESAFF Uganda know their land rights, and they have come to appreciate and believe that the resilient way of farming is agroecology. Women small-scale farmers can now fight for their resources for production.” Mr. Hakim added.
During the conference, women small-scale farmer leaders highlighted key agricultural resource challenges, including access to land, access to water, access to quality seeds and access to finance, among others.
Ms. Christine Okot mentioned during the conference how she suffered to access land due to being a widow “I suffered for 8 years with my 7 children after my husband’s death. My in-laws wanted to throw me out of my land with my children because I was a widow. For many years, I reported the case to the police, but I was never addressed. Through the different land rights community awareness events organised by ESAFF Uganda, I managed to win back my land. So today, as we celebrate Women in Agriculture, I also extensively celebrate for having gotten my land back,” She said.
Ms Noeline Mary Namugenyi, a small-scale farmer from Gomba district, also narrated how non-formal marriages and ignorance are a leading cause of domestic violence: “Most couples in Gomba district are in non-formal marriages. In this particular case, the “husband” got a second wife through a formal marriage and ended up selling all the land that they had acquired with the first “wife” and changed all the land documents. Due to her ignorance she didn’t realise, she lost her claim on the land” she narrated.
The Chairperson of the ESAFF Women Forum noted that ESAFF Uganda has for over the years invested enormously in empowering women small-scale farmers through methodologies like the Gender Action Learning System (GALS), Farmer Field School Model, Community Agroecology School, Gender Journey Model and Agroecology Business Hub.
According to Sseremba Daniel, the Mityana District Production Officer, advised small-scale farmers to join farmer groups for straightforward lobbying of good seeds, training, marketing and distribution. “We are working with expert farmers, extension workers, Research (NARO) and Business Communities who easily extend their services to farmer groups more than to single farmers.”
We call for policies and programs that support our participation in agriculture and for the empowerment of women small-scale farmers and agricultural workers. “We also demand an end to discrimination and violence against women in agriculture and for the recognition of our rights to own and inherit land, property, and other resources.” Masudio Margaret quoted.
Ms. Winnie Kyobutungi, the Gomba District Production Officer, thanked ESAFF Uganda for always inviting men to women’s conferences to learn a thing or two to be men models in their communities. She went ahead to call upon the men present to change their communities, beginning with their families.
“We thank the Government for having invested money in community training on how to conserve the environment and improve agroecology; women are now discouraged from burning residues, for example, food peelings, but rather collect them, clean them by removing polythene papers and then use for mulching”, said Esther Mubende District Production Officer.
Katusabe Betty, an Investor from Kassanda district, called upon the Government to reduce the collateral and interest of loans for small-scale farmers because it has chased away women investors only for them to end up in money lenders who do not ask for collateral but rather colossal interest.
In conclusion, the conference called on local leaders and the private sector to construct roads with access to the nearby markets in the communities for economic growth, regional development, and inclusive progress.
Women small-scale farmers also called on the government to put in place and implement policies that promote gender equality in agriculture. This includes addressing social norms and cultural practices that limit women’s participation in decision-making processes, ensuring equal pay for equal work, promoting women’s leadership roles in farmer organisations, and providing support for childcare facilities. “The Government needs to adopt a gender-responsive approach in agricultural policies and programs to create an enabling environment for women farmers.” Ms. Beatrice Katsigazi added.
ESAFF Uganda, through the ESAFF Women Forum, will focus on sensitising women on their rights and responsibilities. This will be done through organising community events, radio talk shows, legal clinics, policy influencing events and grassroots campaigns on practice change targeting cultural norms and practices.