Farming in Uganda serves as the backbone of the economy. Women have been instrumental in forging a successful sector in agriculture. Women farmers in Uganda make up more than 50 per cent of the workforce in agriculture.
The Ugandan government has proposed unconventional tools to improve farming techniques and increase crop production. However despite major plans to transform farming practices, government has made a drastic cut in the budget allocated for agricultural and farming development. According to a report titled “Analysis of public expenditures in support of food and agriculture in Uganda.” government spending dropped by 15 per cent in the 2012/2013 financial year.
Even though monetary injection in the agriculture sector has declined, women farmers in Northern Uganda have turned to Information Communication Technology tools to improve production and increase profit. According the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab adopting modern agricultural technologies could improve productivity and reduce rural poverty in Africa.
Women Of Uganda Network, an organization that assists rural women farmers in Northern Uganda is spearheading projects that intergrate ICT’s such as mobile phones and community radio programmes to disseminate agricultural information.
Information, Youth and ICT officer at Women Of Uganda Network, Moses Owiny says mobile phones are used to send and receive messages on best agronomic practices.
The use of Information Communication Technology in farming is used to give details on timely weather forecasts, marketing, pest and disease control measures and post harvest strategies.
UTouch trainer for the Women Empowerment Programme in the Gulu district, Eunice Adong says her role at the organization is to give ICT and digital technology training to women starting businesses especially women farmers in Northern Uganda.
“UTouch teaches rural women farmers to use digital tools such as social media to market their products online. Women farmers in Gulu, Lira and Apach have received training as part of our ICT empowerment project where they have been brought in to use our computers to do research and use facilities for business purposes.” said Adong
One of the beneficiaries of WOUGNET and UTouch ICT projects for rural women farmers in Gulu is 76 year old Pilimena Ojok who lives in Palami village. Ojok, a widow who lives with her five grandchildren started farming maize, cassava and g-nut in 1951.
“Farming is our way of life. We do not know anything else except planting and harvesting. It has been difficult in the past because of changing seasons. I wish there were better ways to increase crop production and profit because I have to feed my grandchildren. ”said Ojok
Owiny says one of the groups of female farmers WOUGNET has worked with in Apac District, Northern Uganda, the women have been able to produce over 60 bags of grains in a year.
Adong says one of the challenges they are currently facing in Gulu is illiteracy which is affecting women farmers.
“We find it difficult to train women farmers because they cannot use computers and most are illiterate.” said Adong
The Maendeleo Foundation’s Connect Uganda Pilot Project has 10 farmer volunteers, who share information at farmers’ group meetings and assisted non-literate farmers. A project survey found that 88% of farmers thought the information they obtained through the program helped them improve their yields.
Director of WOUGNET, Dorothy Okello in statement said in spite of the challenges facing the organization and women farmers, they remain committed to promoting the use of timely and relevant information in agriculture and rural development.
Reporting for this story was supported by the International Women’s Media Foundation’s African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative.
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