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OPINION: Financing Women Activities In Agriculture Value Chain

by Wangah Wanyama
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By Bob Twinomugisha

Women play a vital role in Uganda’s agricultural value chain activities ranging from production, post-harvest handling, agro-processing to marketing. According to the recent report by the European Union, women account for 58% and 72% of the total labour force at production and post-harvest handling stages respectively in Uganda.

Despite the key role that women play along the value chain, they are among the poorest sections of the population. The 2021 Uganda National Household Survey (UNHS) revealed that women earn on average only 53% of what men earn (sh123,000 versus sh233,000). In addition, the 2018 FINSCOPE survey suggests that 23% of women are currently financially excluded, of whom 87% live in rural areas. Women are financially excluded due to lack of collateral, a perception of high risk and limited knowledge of the loan application processes, among other barriers.

Relatedly, land ownership is a major barrier to women’s fair engagement in the agriculture value chain. In accordance with cultural norms, women typically do not own land in many parts of the country, especially where the customary land tenure system dominates. This affects their ability to access inputs on credit, control production processes and make decisions regarding the proceeds from agricultural sales.

Despite different government interventions to make land accessible to women, most women mainly possess use rights with limited ownership rights. Limitations mainly stem from customary and inheritance factors that favour men, resulting in unbalanced power relations within households.

Other constraints to women’s productive engagement in agriculture include high costs of inputs, poor access to financial and extension services and high transportation costs. Women’s participation in unpaid domestic care work such as childcare activities affects their ability to allocate time to financially rewarding work. Also, there aren’t sufficient or appropriate extension services in some places to address women’s information and skills needs. Lack of proper extension services, therefore, limits women’s ability to increase the quality and quantity of agricultural yields. In fact, a study on the gender gap in agricultural productivity indicates that countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda, lose about $67m in annual gross domestic product (GDP) due to gender inequality.

Nationally, the 1995 Constitution (as amended) puts women in prime light. It makes various provisions aimed at the empowerment of women, children, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and ethnic minorities, among others. Similarly, the national development plan emphasises the commercialisation of agriculture to increase production and productivity, with intensification of production, agro-processing and marketing as launch pads.

Accordingly, funding for the agriculture sector value chain over the years has aimed at improving production and productivity. This is done through the distribution of seedlings to farmers and stocking materials; strengthening research and technology development; providing extension services to farmers; improving value addition, agro-processing, post[1]harvest handling, storage facilities and market infrastructure; expanding water for production facilities; increasing access to affordable agricultural finance and enforcing standards and quality assurance to improve market access. To enhance women inclusion, there have been several funding initiatives for women entrepreneurs devised by the government of Uganda, financial institutions, religious organisations,

NGOs and the private sector.

Much of the Government’s efforts have been geared towards agricultural value chain where women account for 77% of the total labour force.

Specifically, Uganda Development Bank, which is mandated with promoting the socio-economic development of Uganda, established special programmes to implement and manage interventions in the categories of women, SMEs and youth for both start[1]ups and existing businesses.

Regarding women’s economic empowerment, the bank established Women Prosper Loans to increase access to affordable and appropriate financial services for women-owned and women-led businesses as an enabler of increased participation of women in the development agenda of Uganda. Women in the agricultural value chain continue to benefit from this UDB funding initiative to start and expand their enterprises at various stages of the value chain.

The UDB women prosper loans are utilised for inputs, storage, machinery, or crop and animal finance among other needs along the value chain. Economic empowerment of women through development financing remains fundamental for sustainable socio[1]economic development of Uganda in the pursuit to improve the livelihood of Ugandans.

There is thus a need to gear up efforts towards sectors that employ most women in the country such as agricultural value chain and sectors key for economic structural transformation like manufacturing to move labor and other resources from low productive to high productive sectors of the economy. Therefore, empowering women economically remains key for sustainable development and improved livelihoods.

The writer is a senior economist, macroeconomics and trade with Uganda Development Bank Lt

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