The Vital Voices Africa Team is back in the U.S. after a week of training with the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) to reinforce their staff’s advocacy skills in strategic planning, working with the media, building grassroots support, communications, and monitoring and evaluation. We also took time during the week to review the progress of the campaign, assess any changes in the campaign environment, and plan next steps for the next six months.
On Wednesday, 18 September, UWEAL hosted a successful National Dialogue and Awareness-Raising Workshop with key campaign stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) Program, the Parliamentary Budget Office, and the Uganda Women Parliamentarian Association, as well as UWEAL members and women farmers. During the workshop, UWEAL was invited to put in a request for participation in the agricultural budget discussions to take place over the next couple months in preparation for the Ministry of Agriculture’s 2014 activities. As a participant noted during the workshop: “If you hold a mirror up to agriculture in Uganda, you see the face of a woman. The government agencies and programs need to reflect that.”
One of the faces of agriculture in Uganda is Mrs. Jessica Sekyeru, a farmer from Mpigi, Uganda. Jessica and her husband grow coffee seedlings, pineapples, bananas, and plantains; they produce honey and fruit juice, and raise poultry and cattle. Jessica began very humbly in 2002 with 2 chickens and 5 kilos of coffee seeds, having agreed to take ownership over these areas while her husband, David Sekyeru, managed the rest of the farm’s activities.
Today, Jessica is raising over 6,000 laying birds and producing over 600 kilos of coffee seeds. She and her husband now consider themselves a team and regularly encourage men and women from their region to work together, explaining that their partnership is what led to their success. Jessica is currently mentoring 30 women and renting out space for them to raise chickens. “Imagine the women who depend on plants only, like beans and maize” she said, “At the end of the day, the drought catches you and you are totally out. With poultry, there is no drought – as long as you tend them well, they are there to give you something to depend on. If it were possible, I would engage as many women as possible in poultry – when people start calling it a poultry village, I feel I will have achieved my vision.” Jessica and David have not yet received any resources from the Ministry of Agriculture’s NAADS program – with additional resources, they could increase the impact of their commercial farming enterprise.
Over the next couple months, UWEAL will participate in national budget discussions and propose a draft policy to the Ministry of Agriculture ensuring that 50% of its resources – human, material, financial, advisory, and research – are allocated to the direct benefit of women farmers. Over 90% of rural women in Uganda work in agriculture, but many of them are able to produce little more than what is required to feed their families. Currently, only about 20% of NAADS resources are benefitting women farmers. Allocating more resources to women farmers will increase food production and contribute to the nation’s food security. We hope you will follow UWEAL’s important work through the SPARC Campaign, as they seek to address the barriers to women’s participation in commercial agriculture.