NI agri businesswomen learn about the challenges facing Ugandan females in farming

5th March 2020

NI agri businesswomen learn about the challenges facing Ugandan females in farming

Ahead of International Women's Day (8th March), two senior managers from Belfast-headquartered agri tech company Devenish have been reflecting on their involvement in the Farm Africa 'Thousand Trees' challenge, which saw them join an all-women group from within the UK food and farming industry to help female farmers in Uganda enhance their businesses and the surrounding environment.

Marian Scott, Innovation and Development Manager with Devenish and Michelle Burke, Senior Poultry Nutritionist, travelled to Kanungu, Uganda, in October 2019 as part of a project led by charity Farm Africa. Marian, Michelle and the team of eight women worked alongside female farmers in Kanungu to plant 1,000 trees across 36 households in just three days.

Whilst there, the group learned about the financial struggle facing coffee bean farmers in Uganda and the impact gender inequality has on the large number of female farmers in the region.

"During the trip, our group dug 1,000 holes by hand and planted avocado, jackfruit and mango trees on over 80 acres of farmland," comments Marian Scott.

"These fruit trees will boost the quality of the soil and improve food security, as well as providing valuable coffee plants with shade, allowing Arabica coffee beans to grow naturally.

"Witnessing the incredible talent, tenacity, sense of community and camaraderie amongst female farmers in Uganda was an incredible experience. It also gave us an enlightening insight into the main issues facing farmers in this part of the world.

"Coffee is Uganda's most valuable crop but despite its profit-making potential, many farmers in eastern Africa struggle to make ends meet.

"Limited labour, processing capacity, financial and commercial services, make it hard for farmers to provide a good life for their families. Many have had to sell trees for timber to generate income. This forest loss has led to a reduced quality of soil, meaning coffee yields are reduced. When you consider that many people in the UK and Ireland readily pay £3 for a cup of takeaway coffee each day, it is hard to believe that farmers in Kanungu need to work for approximately two weeks to make same in wages," Marian said.

Gender inequality was also high on the agenda of the trip, as Marian continues:

"The level of gender inequality within the coffee industry in the area we visited was stark. Women represent some 65% of the labour in the Kanungu coffee chain yet receive little profit and less income than men for the same work. Female farmers there have little control over resources and profits.

"During our trip, we took part in a walk organised by the local young farmers' association to underline the need for better gender equality in the coffee industry and discuss the economic and social benefits of empowering young women. Farm Africa is helping women in the region unlock their potential through the creation of coffee cooperatives, which enhance their businesses' performance and ultimately allow them to improve their lives and those of their children," said Marian.

Devenish has had a longstanding relationship with Farm Africa as well as a business presence in Uganda, with its Model Pig Farm in Hoima helping local pig farmers transform their farms into sustainable, successful businesses.

Michelle Burke, Senior Poultry Nutritionist at Devenish, added:

"Charities like Farm Africa are so important because they not only provide aid to farmers in areas like Kanungu, they also help highlight and address issues in an attempt to make their businesses more successful and sustainable long-term.

"We all live on the same planet and being given the opportunity from Devenish to both learn from, as well as help, other women in Uganda, was both enlightening and enriching.

"The work was physically demanding but the common bond between women from completely different backgrounds and cultures was our ability to collaborate. It reiterated the sheer importance of sustainable farming and the huge amount of work that needs to be done to address the gender gap internationally."

Since their Ugandan visit, the group of women has raised over £62,000 for Farm Africa to help support the communities in which the farms they visited operate.


For further information contact Sarah Stitt / Ben McCabe at Morrow Communications on T 02890 393837 or E s.stitt@morrowcommunications.com

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