FRB’s Uganda-Busoga program is based on the premise that the food security of smallholder maize farmers increases when husbands and wives learn to work together toward the goal of increasing their maize production. Traditionally, women and men have farmed separately, with women’s efforts going toward caring for the whole family, and men raising money that sometimes went to the family but most often went to meet their individual needs. This program encourages both spouses to think about the family as a unit that needs to be cared for first.
The goal of the program is equal access for male and female farmers to agricultural training through Farmer Field Schools (FFS), coordinated marketing, group savings, and cooperative services. Better farming means families have more maize to eat and sell, and when participants join gender-equal cooperatives they get better pricing by marketing collectively. Joint decisions by husband and wife on how to use the income further strengthen the family’s security.
The program’s three farmer cooperatives are improving their capacity to provide better services to all of their members, regardless of gender. They are focusing on collective procurement of inputs, delivery of financial services, and training in financial management, marketing, and market information. All program participants have learned about the origins and effects of gender inequality, through training sessions that use an approach called GALS (Gender Action Learning System).
Using pictures because most of the farmers don’t know how to read or write, local program partner staff and attendees identified gender issues that stand in the way of food security. Participants discussed the different roles played by women and men and how those roles are or are not recognized, valued and rewarded. Men and women identified what they like, do not like, and would like to change about their respective roles. During the trainings, participants set their visions and learned to identify opportunities and threats as they move towards achieving those visions.
Women tend to shy away from attending group meetings that include their spouses because they fear expressing their feelings in front of their husbands, so couples currently join separate gender-integrated groups.
As a representative from Lutheran World Relief said at the inauguration of the program, “Women do a lot of work. They look after children and households, and have to provide labor in the fields. It is important that women be able to enjoy the fruits of their hard labor. When women are allowed to have a share in the proceeds from their work, the benefits will be enormous. Children will be able to go to school, the family will have access to health care, and the community will be food secure.”
Foods Resource Bank’s Uganda-Busoga program is led by Lutheran World Relief and NAMUBUKA Grains Area Cooperative Enterprise (ACE). Uganda-Busoga encompasses 2 communities, 1500 households, and 5500 individuals.