The northern Uganda post conflict recovery programme has increased feminization of agriculture as a result of increased urbanization and the migration of many young men to urban centers and yet young women’s growing labour force participation in agriculture in Lango sub-region has not necessarily translated into improvement in their livelihood status relative to men, or in their well-being.
Many young women smallholders still encounter difficulties accessing training, key inputs and extension services. Lack relevant agribusiness skills; and Lack active young women voice in local policy making processes.
To address this gender transformative challenge, Plan International Uganda and its consortium partners- Makerere university, VEDCO and Mukwano group of company secured a 3-year (March 2018 to February 2021) project financing from the SNPL BP 123 thorough Plan International Netherlands National office to implement the Gender Transformative Contract Farming for Gender Equality and Household Resilience Project in the sub-counties of Agweng and Aromo in Lira district, and Apala and Abia sub-counties in Alebtong district.
This is to empower female farmers and increase the resilience of their households.
A baseline study was therefore commissioned to provide detailed baseline data that will enable the setting up of evidence-based benchmarks against which project measurement of progress and impact will be based to inform the project planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation process. Thus, the specific objectives of the baseline study were to:
- Provide benchmark measures against the project’s indicators and in the same vein pilot project indicators and data collection tools.
- Document the current status in relation to vulnerability status, livelihood assets, livelihood strategies, food security situation, policy, process and institutional interactions of the target population partially visa-vie soybean production.
- Assess soybean production levels, voice/decision making and women agency in market and justifications for inadequacy.
- Assess existing interventions of soybean production meant to enhance voice/decision making and agency for women farmers.
- To ascertain the level of gender transformative actions in regards to drafting of contracts, equal decision-making and development of bylaws and policies.
- Assess the involvement of the private sector in the promotion of production and productivity of high quality soybeans.
Data was collected using quantitative, qualitative and participatory methods, namely: Document review, young women smallholder surveys, FGDs, KIIs, organizational capacity assessment, and gender based analysis. The key units of analysis included: (i) Smallholder youth women; (ii) the implementing partners and (iii) District and lower local governments. A total of 276 respondents were interviewed.
The majority knowledge in basic functional skills of smallholders in Lira and Alebtong districts were in savings and lending (78.3%; 78.3%), gender sensitivity (75.8%; 72.9%), financial literacy (55.4%; 56.7%),soybean agronomy (54.5%; 63.3%) and agribusiness (54.1%; 63.3%), compared to contract farming (29.3%; 20%).
An average land of 5 acres is being able to utilize by the youth smallholders in Alebtong district and 3.3 acres by youth smallholders in Lira district. These were either owned or rented, while 52.2% and 46.7% in Lira and Alebtong districts owned and rented land respectively. An average farm size for soybean production ranged from 2.5 – 2.7 acres in Lira and Alebtong districts. An acre of land was rented at Uganda shillings 76,271 and 154,000 every year.
The average yield in kilograms per acre of soybean in first cropping season in Lira and Alebtong districts were 608.9 and 569.5 kilograms, compared to 290 and 220.3 Kilograms harvested in second cropping season. The average selling price per kilogram in second season is higher (1223 and 1028.6 Uganda shillings (UGX), compared to average selling price per kilogram in first season of 1097.8 and 1095.2 UGX resulting into higher average gross revenue from soybean of UGX 668,450.4 and 623,716.4 in the first cropping season, compared to low average income of UGX 354,670.0 and 226,600.6 only in the second cropping season accruing from yield per land size.
The awareness and use of foliar, organic,, inorganic fertilizers and planting leguminous trees in the garden and crop protection activities (chemical weed control and matching weed with control measures) were very low (6.4%, 1.7%; 14.6%, 35%; 5.1%,3.2% and 1.9%, 6.7%; 20.4%;35%) in Lira and Alebtong districts respectively. These were reflected in the low yield of soybean; however, the effect of the usage of local and own saved seeds cannot be ignored. The study found out that majority (90%; 86%)) of youth smallholders harvest their crops at the right time. However, harvesting challenges in Lira and Alebtong districts were spoilage by rain (52.2%; 56.7%), limited drying and storage facility (25.5%; 20%) and limited labor for harvesting (8.3%; 20%). In addition the majority (65%) youth smallholders in Alebtong district add value to their crops through cleaning, sorting, drying, packaging and processing and less than half (44%) youth smallholders in Lira district do add value to their crops after harvest and therefore youth smallholders in Alebtong district realize relatively higher income than those in Lira district.
The majority (100%, 97.5%) youth smallholders in Lira and Alebtong belong to community groups of which 85.3% and 96.7% are in Village Savings & Lending Associations and 14.6%; 3.3% were members of typical smallholder groups. That means there were no bulking and selling in groups (91.7%; 93.3%). Many (80.9%) and less than half (41.7%) youth smallholders in Lira and Alebtong districts sell their produce to mainly middlemen and very few (6.4% and 10%) to speculating buyers from faraway places. Sale of produce in the local market was common (94.9% and 85%) due to limited access to market information, differences in individual household demands and absence of group marketing structure. Many (77.7% and 78.3%) youth smallholders in Lira and Alebtong districts were affected by low prices and less than a third (16.7% and 11.7%) was affected by poor weighing. The lack of understanding of cost of production and net profits from the enterprises, adulteration of produce with thrush in order to increase weight were reported. In addition, very few (15.9% and 18.3%) keep farm records.
The youth smallholders in Lira and Alebtong districts get income mainly from small scale crop farming (77.7% and 63.3%) and very few (9.6%, 6.4%, 3.5%, 0.6% and21.7%, 10%, 1.7%) from petty trade, livestock keeping, construction and services (99.5%), livestock/poultry (37.8%) and small enterprises/petty trade (15.1%). Almost half (44.6% and 48,3%) and less than a third (24.8%, 20.4%; 20%, 13.3%) youth smallholders in Lira and Alebtong districts accessed extension services from Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), fellow farmers and own group. Majority (82% and 73.3%) youth smallholders accessed agricultural inputs from the local markets and more than half (64.3%) youth smallholders accessed crop finances from Saving and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs) in Lira district and less than a third (28.3% and 23.3%) accessed from private individuals and SACCO. Only (2.5% and 6.7%) IGAs in Lira and Alebtong districts were formally registered. Less than a tenth (7,6% and 5%) had written business plans; very small percentage (17.2% and 8.3%) were conducting cost-benefit analysis for their IGAs; few (14.6%; 18.3%) kept business records and less than a third ((18.5%; 23.3%)) separated personal and business finances. This is an indication of low level of good business management practices. However, an average business values for Lira and Alebtong were 574,455.7 and 624,642.9 UGX and the smallholders are also saving small money that is reinvested in IGAs.
There is high reliance (80.9% and 88.3%) in Lira and Alebtong districts on own food production, thus putting the household members at risk of food vulnerability. Higher (98%, 90%) number do not have food all year round; 2% and 10% eat at least three meals a day and 81%, 100% eat together as a family. There is generally little consumption of animal protein among households attributed to little spending on food. Majority (98%, 70%; 69%, 68%) in Lira and Alebtong districts had inadequate food in the months of June and May, more than half (53%) in Alebtong had inadequate food in the month of April and less than a third (25% and 28%) had inadequate food in the months of July. The reasons for inadequate food in Lira and Alebtong were (39.5%, 40%) drought, (25.5%, 40%) poor crop yields and (29.3%, 6.7%) inadequate resources.
Both men and women participate in crop production, with major role played by women in the entire production chain of the commodity. Unfortunately very few participate in the downstream activities of the commodity value chain such as value addition and marketing, they have no control over land which is a major production factor and they hardly take part in the decision-making process at the household and institutional levels in their areas.
Gender equality in household decision making was less than 50%. Small number (30.9%) of smallholder women experienced quarrelling/verbal attack and less than a third (20.7%) had experienced fighting/physical abuse, 7.8% experienced denial of access to resources, 6% sexual abuse and 2.3% negligence. Majority (> 60%) female smallholders were involved in decision making on key household aspects such as major use of household income, use of credits, and asset acquisition among others. More than (53.5% and 55%) in Lira and Alebtong districts were very confident and a little bit confident but only with some help of others to participate in public decision making. Less than half (41.4%, 40%) are aware of their development rights (decentralized development), majority (73.9%, 65%) are aware of their rights to food security but < 38% have asked for support, benefited from local government projects, attended planning and project implementation meetings, and participated in monitoring of LG development projects.
The contract farmer model of Mukwano Group of Company is such that their agents determine prices. In circumstances of any delayed purchase by the company, the same agents can be used to organize purchase for other organizations.
VEDCO structure proposes the flexibility in price negotiation during with produce at hand, transformative extensive services through district technical staff, project officers and community base trainers at the sub-county. This would ensure closeness to the farmers and also the sustainability of the system.