Farmers groups elevating women’s economic status

Saturday March 9 2019

State Minister for Gender and Culture Peace

State Minister for Gender and Culture Peace Regis Mutuuzo with members of the revolutionary groups. PHOTO by George Katongole 

By George Katongole

Organised at village level, these groups are called revolutionary, owing to a sizeable number of locals that were involved in the liberation struggle that hail from the area. It is evident that some steps forward have been taken.
Joy Turyahikayo, 63, is the vice chairperson of Rwimi Revolutionary Farmers Association. The group started in 2014, and has a 26-man membership, 11 of whom are women.
Turyahikayo, a freedom fighter, says she is now involved in an economic revolution. The widow, who takes care of eight children, was heartbroken when her husband, whom she says was the sole breadwinner as she was a full-time housewife, died yet she now lives a decent life. She is part of a farmer’s group which State Minister for Gender and Culture Peace Regis Mutuuzo, says have empowered women economically. “There is no stronger tool for development than women’s entrepreneurship,” Mutuuzo said.
Turyahikayo decided to use 20 acres of land for zero grazing 13 cows, while one acre is used for coffee growing. Two acres are used for banana growing. But she owes the benefits to the farmers group.
“The parent stock was given to me by the group in 2015 and I am happy to be expanding,” she said during a weekly group meeting at Abbas Busobozi’s home, who was taking that week’s share of the members’ contribution.
The members kept chorusing their motto: “Revolutionary farming a must. Why not? Yes we can”, as they welcomed every speaker.
Turyahikayo is happy that the group has improved the general welfare in her household. She has been able to acquire a television set pay for TV subscription but most importantly school fees for her children is now a small matter.
This is just one of those revolutionary groups in Bunyangabu. A village can have more than seven groups with some ambitious members belonging to more than one. They are unique as they are community-led and award member marks on each visit to promote good farming practices.
How it works
Despite remaining open, there are restrictions to membership. One must register with a non-refundable fee of Shs100,000 and buy shares, with each going for Shs50,000. Yet what matters most is being a resident, on top of having a plantation of either bananas, vanilla or coffee, the chief crops produced in Bunyangabu or land that can be developed. At every weekly sitting, one must also be able to contribute Shs43,000 which is given to a beneficiary.

Women-led economy
With a high fertility rate estimated at seven per cent, Bunyangabu is stuck with many children who are left in the hands of the women. Waragi (local gin) making is one of the most important economic activities for the men. For the other working men, these economically empowered women supplement household incomes. Mutuuzo, who is also a member in four groups, says such women need motivation because their earnings make a big difference in the community.
Landholding is mainly in the hands of men limiting some women yet low prices especially for matooke, where a medium sized bunch is currently going for just Shs5,000, require government intervention.
“Some of the farmers are already exporting bananas to European markets yet most of the average farmers are still puzzled,” Mutuzo revealed.
The community still faces the challenge of lack of farm machinery such as tractors, refrigerated tracks and loading bays where the bananas can be kept cool before being exported.
“We are advocating for value addition but our eyes are also set on the international market. If these women are to continue reading the benefits, they must enough from their efforts,” she notes.
Embracing diversity
But the women are embracing diversity. Women in Development Association (WIDA), which is housed at the Kanyamukaire Centenary Catholic Church parish, has 60 members who rear goats. Allen Twikiriza, their chairperson says that with a Shs30,000 contribution, they give members loans, offer catering services and yet it is a tool for evangelism.
Fr. Simon Mapeera, the parish priest, hails the impact of the group.
“Since 2012 when the group started, we have felt their presence as they keep visiting homes of non-Catholics with whom they share the gospel and also practical development ideas,” he said. Yet for Twikiriza, the security they get from being empowered is overwhelming.
“Our members have improved a lot financially and we meet any challenges as a group which builds a sense of community,” she noted.

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