Posted 5 March 2018
"It allows these women to become independent. It’s a way out of poverty for them.”
Harper Adams University Lecturer in sub-Saharan and Tropical Agriculture Ed Mashatise has created and delivered a Train the Trainer (TTT) training course to enable participants to teach female smallholder farmers in Uganda to become more resilient and profitable.
The programme aims to empower the women farmers and reduce their vulnerability through modern farming techniques and adding supply chain value.
Ed said: “Farmers of small holdings face huge challenges in Uganda and sub-Saharan Africa, and the majority of them are female. Some of these women have been widowed, but for some their husbands are working elsewhere and doing other things.
“In Mityana, Uganda, they’re blessed with two growing seasons a year so if we train them, they can improve their yields and productivity. This will enable them to be able to send their kids to school and do other social activities.
“The project is funded by United Kingdom based Daughter of the Soil Foundation (DOTS) and is run in association with Mityana Uganda Charity, which organised the training venue, and helped to identify the 15 women farmers for the pilot.
“I created and delivered the course and accompanying materials for the seven trainers who went on to train the 15 women farmers.
“The topics covered included crop establishment, crop harvesting and storage, introduction to plant nutrition, introduction to soils, crop protection, business management and markets and introduction to agricultural mechanisation.
“Teaching them agronomy is important. They’re spending lots of time out in the fields but getting very little back for it. Increasing productivity per hectare is our first priority.
“But alongside this, we also want to promote safety. When they are spraying pesticides and fertilisers, they don’t wear any PPE, like masks. Health wise they are damaging themselves and have no knowledge of these chemicals. It’s very dangerous.”
The project aims to provide the farmers with not only knowledge, but also equipment. They are working on providing them with machines, such as tractors, as current farming methods are very labour intensive. They also will be giving them specialised crop storage bags. Even though these may not sound overly significant, Ed explains that they are highly important: “The crop bags that will be given out are air-tight. It stops pests and diseases from growing among the harvested crop and keeps it fresher for longer, so they can stagger when they go to the markets.
"Due to the poor road infrastructure and post-harvest losses, these female farmers are going to middle men, who pay the women very little in exchange for their produce. We’re working to identify guaranteed markets for them to send their produce to in the future.”
On the experience of being involved in the project, Ed adds: “It’s so satisfying. To go from someone who was only producing one tonne of maize to either doubling or producing three to four tonnes of maize is brilliant. It allows these women to become independent. It’s a way out of poverty for them.”