Agrilinks Blog Carnival: Bridging the Gap, Increasing the Competitiveness of Ugandan Women in the Marketplace
By Linda Naeve, Extension Program Specialist, Value Added Agriculture Program, Iowa State University, and Co-leader of the project.
This article is a contribution to a week-long blog carnival on USAID's John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) Program. From July 14-18, F2F program partners and American volunteers shared their knowledge and experience of providing technical assistance to farmers, farm groups, agribusinesses, service providers, and other agriculture sector institutions in developing and transitional countries. You can find all contributions on Agrilinks.
Our Farmer-to-Farmer project titled “Bridging the Gap, Increasing the Competiveness of Ugandan Women in the Marketplace ” was actually two projects that took place between 2011 and 2012, the second building on the success of the first.
First I will give you a little background on why ours was a “women working with women” project. Although women in Uganda represent nearly 70 percent of the agricultural workforce and provide nearly all food for consumption, historically, they have been excluded from or disregarded in development programs aimed at improving agricultural production and increasing food security in their country. Agricultural education and training for women significantly lags behind that of their male counterparts. These farmers lack access to important agricultural resources such as extension workers, tools, and credit, and are constrained by other time consuming household activities. This is where Iowa women farmers can come help.
This project was directed by the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Global Extension program through collaboration with Iowa State’s Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL). CSRL has partnered with a Ugandan nonprofit organization, Volunteer Efforts for Developing Concerns (VEDCO), to provide production and marketing expertise to Ugandan farmers and have been providing outreach and education in the district since 2004. As a result, many of the area Ugandan farm families were poised to increase crop diversity, as well as increase grain yields and quality for sale to commercial markets. This project assisted approximately 130 women farmers from 10 identified farmer groups in the Kamuli District of Uganda with post-harvest skills, record-keeping, collective marketing and soybean production.
Over the course of the two Farmer-to-Farmer projects, my co-leader, Margaret Smith and I, hosted seven trips with 14 volunteer Iowa farmers. Five of the volunteers went both years. Each of the volunteers had specific skills to improve the Ugandan women farmers’ production and marketing skills. Margaret explains the concept of using volunteers very well. She says, “In Iowa, we have an amazing system in place to market our crops. Our Iowa farmers’ experiences allow them to identify the gaps in the Ugandan marketing system and help identify steps for improving local farmers’ maize grain quality and marketing.” The ultimate goal was to improve profitability and bring more money to the household.
We admittedly didn’t have the expertise about the Ugandan soils, cropping seasons, and their production methods to assist with their farming skills to improve their maize yield. However, we could help them reduce their losses once they harvested their crop and improve their plant stands in the field. At the beginning of the project, the women estimated they lost 40% of their crop post-harvest to molds, rodents, or weevils. Because of this, they told us they couldn’t store their crop longer than a month or two.
We also learned they spend hours cleaning their crops after drying them on the ground and the common way of threshing the maize was beating it with a stick, resulting in broken kernels.
The first step toward improving their corn quality, was simply giving each participant a tarp for drying their crops. The volunteers taught them how to determine the optimum moisture level for storing and methods for germination testing. The project provided each group with a bicycle-operated maize sheller. Although they were difficult to install, once in place, they shelled the corn swiftly and left the kernels intact. Each farmer also received training on how to use the simple farm record books that were developed and translated into Lugandan, their native language. After learning about record keeping, the farmer told us how important it was to them.
You will learn more about our project throughout the week. April Hemmes and Lori Lang, Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers, will share their experiences in Kamuli Uganda.
As aligned with Feed the Future, the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative, F2F works to support inclusive agriculture sector growth, facilitate private sector engagement in the agriculture sector, enhance development of local capacity and promote climate-smart development. Volunteer assignments address host-led priorities to expand economic growth that increases incomes and improves access to nutritious food. Read more articles on this topic on Agrilinks. Also, make sure to subscribe to receive a daily digest in your inbox, for one week only!