Women in Uganda
World Food Day: The Role of Women in Agriculture
7th March, 1985 City Hall KampalaHonorable Ministers,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I have noted with pleasure that the theme of the "World Food Day" this year is "The role of Women in Agriculture". I am happy that, through the efforts of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the important role of Women in Agriculture has been the subject of international conferences. I am also happy that many African governments, including the Government of Uganda, have responded positively and have participated in global and regional meetings where the role of women in agriculture has been discussed.
These conferences and meetings serve to increase the consciousness of all the people, not only on the role of Women in Agriculture and Food production, but also on the important position of women in the solution of all national and international problems of development. What is now emerging is the truth that although women play vital roles in a wide range of fields of development, women do not enjoy easy access to development, women do not enjoy easy access to development facilities. Nowhere is this more significant than in the field of agriculture and food production.
Whereas it is acknowledged that women contribute more effort in the production of food and other crops, very few women have been trained in Agriculture and Food Technology; and very few women own the means of agricultural production and processing.
The imbalance in the opportunities and skills available to women, compared with men, must be seen as one of the basic deficiencies giving rise to the global food problem today. The role of women in agriculture should therefore be properly perceived and appropriate international, national and social measures should be taken to avail skills and opportunities to women so that they make much more effective contribution to the relief and elimination of the global food problem.
The most important position of women in relation to food and agriculture derives from their role as mothers. When a baby is born, mother is the natural source of food; because there is no better balanced diet for the baby than breast milk. Thus everybody is conditioned, right from infancy, to believe that it is the responsibility of women to provide food for their children.
In almost all-Ugandan societies it is also commonly held that the role of the wife is to provide for her household. It is the wife who knows how much food there is left in the granary and which bunch of banana is ready for harvest. A wife with no garden, or no granary, has no security in the home.
In the traditional peasant agriculture system in Africa the women, on account of her twin roles as mother and wife, was the prime mover of the domestic food economy. The twin roles have not changed with the times and are unlikely to change. Traditional peasant agriculture, however, is giving way to new forms of agricultural production. These changes are bringing more and more into prominence the role of the women as the backbone of an economy such as that of Uganda.
Ours is still a rural economy, of which agriculture is the leading sector. The leading person in that sector is the woman. She is the backbone of that economy. Without her labour and numerical strength, the level of our agricultural production would be lower than what has been recorded.
Besides providing labour, the woman also plays a supervisory role in cases where the husband can afford to hire extra labour. Thus throughout the year women in Uganda are fully engaged in the various stages of agricultural production; tilling the land, planting, weeding, harvesting, processing, storage.
The role of women in marketing it is mainly the women who are to be found retailing maize and cassava flour, beans, groundnuts and other produce.
The unmistakably significant role that women play in agricultural production, processing and marketing of crops, as well as in the preparation of food, poses a challenge to those who are involved in planning for the development of the agricultural sector of our economy.
It is important, therefore, that policies for increased agricultural production should be formulated with special bias towards the training of women in agriculture. It is also essential, for the improvement of the social status of the women, that new initiatives be taken by Government and Parliament to reward women handsomely for the work they do to increase the national wealth.
Today, a married woman will work as much as her husband in the production of food or export crops. Some of the food crop is sold in the local market. The cash income, which comes to the family out of this combined work by the man and his wife, goes almost wholly to the man. The woman may be rewarded with one busuti, one new kikoi, one handkerchief, one pair of shoes or a necklace. The man will take the rest of the income, besides what may go into the housekeeping and the welfare of the children. Even where he is capable of banking part of that money, the account is always in the name of the man alone. He is free to drink part of this income practically every day, but the woman, unhappily, never gets a little of the income for an occasional drink with fellow women. This is not a good set-up to encourage this great producer of wealth - the backbone of the economy - known as woman.
I call upon Government and Parliament to remove the irony in our situation where there are very few women associated with agricultural projects, when the woman is the backbone of our agriculture and the leading implementers of the agricultural projects.
Almost all-agricultural extension workers are men.
Almost all the co-operative extension workers are men.
Almost all-veterinary extension workers are men.
Almost all trade development officers are men.
In addition, women in Uganda hardly find the opportunity to attend agricultural, co-operatives and marketing extension meetings and conferences. All these meetings are attended and dominated by men.
The time has come when we in Uganda should seriously address ourselves to improving the agricultural and food processing methods of the women. Today, the technique which are used by women in the rural areas of Uganda, in tilling the land, planting and weeding, threshing, winnowing and storage of agricultural produce, are the same as they have been for time immemorial. They are traditional methods. With increasing population and demand for food, these traditional methods of production and processing of crops are no longer adequate. There can be no doubt, therefore, that one of the priority issues for agricultural development in Uganda today is the introduction and training of women and men in modern agricultural and food technology.
We need to re-examine our agricultural extension services and methods and to single out women as the important target recipients of these services. Our District Farm Institutes should provide special courses and programs designed for women, so that they may be exposed to better agricultural and food technology. Special effort should be made to develop womens producer co-operatives, so those women may be enabled to grow crops on a larger scale. Special training programs should be designed for women to learn how to operate and maintain farm machinery, apply fertilizers and operate mills.
Before I conclude, I wish to extend gratitude to all the women of Uganda who are engaged in agricultural production. It is their work that has built this country. I want to say to them that the work they do is beginning to be recognized and that it is only a matter of time before their sweat and toil shall also be justly rewarded.
I pay special homage to the women of Masaka District and, of course, the men. Whatever may have been the reason for the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry to select Masaka for this years celebrations, the true reason must be recognition of the hard working women and men of Masaka. I thank you all for the various activities you have done and particularly for the Agricultural show you have staged and the Cultural Show, which everyone has enjoyed today.
Lastly, I appeal to all concerned to recognize that in order to enhance productivity in agriculture; special attention should be given to improving skills of women in Uganda.
I thank the Honorable Minister of Agriculture & Forestry for inviting me to be the Guest of Honor at the functions marking "World Food Day" this year.
I am happy that the Day is being celebrated in all parts of Uganda. To my fellow women, I would like to say that, since we play such an important role in all aspects of food production and processing in this country, we should take "World Food Day" to be yet another "Womens Day".