Strengthening Capacities of Women led Small-scale Farmer Enterprises Through Enterprise Development
Written by Naume Kalinaki and Josephine Hilda Nansubuga
In Uganda, an estimated 70% of female labor in agriculture, yet their contribution is frequently underestimated and underappreciated. These continue to face unequal market access as a result of unequal access to land, credit, inputs, time constraints imposed by unequal distribution of household work, and subordination in decision-making supported by tradition and male control of land and other resources.
The West Nile region has been an important element of Uganda's coffee industry since the early 1900s, when the British colonial authority introduced Arabica coffee. Coffee production remains essential in the west Nile region calling for an improvement in the region's coffee quality, resulting in the creation of specialty-grade coffees that are gaining traction in the global market. ESAFF Uganda launched the Agroecology Business Hub to support small-scale farmers, especially women, to improve their livelihoods through skilling and empowerment to enable them to overcome economic challenges in terms of enterprise selection, market access, financial resources, knowledge, capital, and gender inequality, among others.
Besides home responsibilities, women subscribe to agriculture from picking to sorting to processing coffee beans, yet in most regions, coffee farming is mostly linked with masculine labor. In the west Nile region of Uganda, women small-scale farmers are seen taking the lead on coffee production in Nyapea sub county Zombo district, and even though their efforts are not fully recognized, they still stand tall, which is one of the reasons they established Zungida Arabica Coffee Enterprise to boost coffee productivity in the region while advocating for women land rights which they believe is a major hindrance to women in agriculture especially the coffee value chain. Women, they say, are less interested in coffee because they have lesser access to land, markets, and financial resources. Women play an important part in coffee farming, yet we receive minimal assistance.
On the 18th July, ESAFF Uganda through the Agroecology Business Hub with financial support from Oxfam in Uganda through the Power of Voices Partnerships, Fair for All Project launched two enterprises in Nebbi and Zombo districts that had been supported to register their enterprises and attain trade licenses to boost their confidence in running the enterprises but also contribute to their visions. The two enterprises were further equipped with value addition equipment to boost their productivity, increase exposure to new market opportunities through packaging, branding and marketing.
While launching Zungida Arabica Coffee Enterprise in Zombo, small-scale farmers were joined by representatives from Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) who emphasized that the market for coffee is always available and it is the quality that determines the prices. Coffee being a national priority cash crop, UCDA offers a wide range of extension services for small-holder farmers. The enterprise aims at reaching more women with extension. However, only 30% of women are reached because coffee is always looked at as a masculine crop hence men take on most of the key decisions regarding coffee. The several cultural barriers have a significant impact women participation in the coffee value chain with several myths and taboos related to the crop in the region.
On a normal scale, each coffee plant is supposed to produce 3kgs of parchment coffee but this is not the case. Currently, coffee plants produce 0.2 to 1kgs of parchment coffee which is way below the scale. As farmers we need to rejuvenate our coffee plantations if we are targeting bigger markets. The potential in coffee farming is enormous. Godwin Amege, Coffee Extension Officer- UCDA
Women's participation in the coffee value chain has been impeded by cultural hurdles, as the majority of their roles stop at post-harvest handling. Some cultures assume that only men have access to coffee markets and make all coffee decisions. Furthermore, many women do not own land, despite the fact that it is a critical factor in production; women are merely viewed as property that may be discarded of at any time. Several difficulties, such as illiteracy and limited access to funding and information, must be overcome in order to empower more women to break into the coffee value chain.
‘’I am impressed that women came up with such an innovation and as UCDA, we commit our support to the enterprise and encourage you not to worry about the market for coffee because it is readily available and with good quality and value addition, the returns are even higher. Women rarely receive extension services because they do not declare their stand as coffee farmers yet as UCDA, we have a special focus on women farmers in the coffee value chain.’’ Godwin Amege, Coffee Extension Officer- UCDA
On the other hand, small-scale farmers were overjoyed at the launch of the Wadikira Organic Honey enterprise in Nebbi district, Kucwiny Sub county, because the enterprise would help them improve their livelihoods through facilitating market access and knowledge on apiary enterprise development and management.
The enterprises are intended to be knowledge centers that facilitate farmer-to-farmer learning and have the potential to attract local government backing. Agriculture is vital to the world's survival. Unfortunately, the bees, which are the most important pollinators, are under threat as more crops are grown in intensive systems, endangering their inhabitants and the bees' lives.
“Bees play a very important part in our biodiversity on which we all thrive as they pollinate approximately 80% of the flowering crops. As farmers, you ought to understand that bees are essential for agricultural sustainability, thus you must safeguard their environment by avoiding the use of hazardous pesticides that endanger bees.”- Nancy Mugimba, ESAFF Uganda National Coordinator.
Beekeeping is a lucrative business for many farmers in the Kucwiny sub county and these were constantly challenged to create high-quality honey that could potentially penetrate the international market. These assets are critical to the economic empowerment of small-scale farmers. I encourage participants within the enterprise to add 1-2 hives to their farm at least once a year, and to make use of the notable bee keepers in the enterprise. It is not only about output; we also need to be knowledgeable about beekeeping. Nyakuni Levy Production Officer Kucwiny Sub County
To protect bees, farm/crop diversity is required, as well as specific ecosystem conservation, management, or rehabilitation. Crop diversification is an approach of fighting climate change and preserving biodiversity in a world where climate change concerns are at the forefront.
In order to bridge some of the gaps in women economic empowerment, there is need to broaden the extension services especially on coffee and honey value chains in order to reach more communities. Currently one extension officer in west Nile serves over 5000 small-scale farmers which creates inequalities in terms of reach.
There is an urgent need for gender mainstreaming to support women break through the space of economic growth while breaking gender and cultural norms and practices that leave women disadvantaged. This requires popularizing guiding lines on land rights, revising and addressing some cultural beliefs that limit women participation in agriculture.