Women like Carol Zawedde have been a critical part of farm and ranch operations across the country and around the globe for centuries. But now, as women in agriculture, they have a unique opportunity to be the change we want to see in the agriculture industry.
To Zawedde as a young girl, it seemed to her as though nearly all leaders in the agricultural industry were male. Though she knew that our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and other women in agriculture worked hard, yet they weren’t front and center. They worked tirelessly behind the scenes, supporting many of the farm’s operations.
Today, however, we are starting to see a major shift in the industry. Not only are more women directly involved in agricultural operations than ever, but quite a number of female principal operators say the number of people who run the farm and make day-to-day management decisions has also risen.
With her farm located in the rural Wabitungulu Village on Busiika-Kikyusa Road in Luweero District, she owns a practical exhibition farm and tourist center where she shares her farming experience with other farmers and to the young generation.
MLinza Farm was started in 2018, purely an organic farm with a special place in agri-tourism. In a space of 4 years, MLinza has been able to market itself in agri-tourism business becoming more diverse, with effective marketing strategies and successfully striving against difficulties with the various challenges facing farming such as climate change and the organic products markets. Organic has been through many twists and turns over the last few years.
“It is a mixed farm mainly into goat’s production alongside rearing chicken, rabbits, turkeys, guinea fowls, ducks and catfish, growing vegetables and fruits. Our main focus right now is agri tourism with a theme of adventure, accommodation and meals and with this kind we want to inspire generations, that’s why we are having agri tours right from nursery, primary, secondary and university level to come learn with us where we teach them in a fun way,” Zawedde said.
“Because we have a lot of activities besides the farming bit. We just want to make it so fun for our learners while they keep the memories and be able to remember what happened while they were at the farm. Actually we give them a take home for evidence that they are from the farm. Where we do meat testing of 8 different types of meat so that they get exposed to the different kinds that they don’t find common on the market, we are creating awareness for these other meats like turkey, duck, rabbit and others,” she explained.
Why did she decide to take on farming?
In much of the world, the face of farming is female. Globally, reports the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the majority of economically active women in the least developed countries work in agriculture.
However they are faced with problems such as lack of access to land, financing, markets, agricultural training and education, suitable working conditions, and equal treatment which put female farmers at a significant disadvantage.
In developing countries like Uganda, arguably, the biggest roadblock is land rights, only 10 to 20 percent of landholders are women, and in some parts of the world, women still cannot legally own or control land. When a female farmer isn’t empowered to make decisions about the land she works, it is impossible for her to enter contract farming agreements that could provide higher earnings and reliable sources of income.
However Carol Zawedde’s determination is beyond those barriers. “My inspiration goes way back during my O-level education where I offered the agriculture subject and practical’s were really part of me. Upon visiting Kabanyoro where the farm has become a learning center for farmers, I just knew farming is for me, but more interest comes from my late grandfather who was a big farmer, there is this time I found him counting lots of money. I remember him telling me if I really ever wanted to touch such money can only be through farming,”
“Actually the challenges inspired me into the farming business. Like when I hear the farmers talk about the challenges of the market. I wanted to show them that you can even do a better addition on your farm by fire that we started meat testing,” she also added.
Zawedde’s initial entry in farming was to demystify the fact that farming is boring. So that when anyone else sees what she is doing is actually inspired. So she wants to change the image and the picture that farming is a dull activity but rather interesting and engaging. Where we must build on the incredible legacy of stewardship, innovation, and productivity and help one another succeed now and move into the future.
The challenges she faces as a farmer
Farmers all over the world have faced challenge after challenge for decades, taking most of them in their stride. However, when you’re not in the agricultural industry, it’s impossible to understand just how tough it can be for them and the daily issues they face to supply the average consumer with their goods.
Zawedde looks back at the storms as an average farmer has weathered through with the major challenge of facing unthinkable drought conditions in that where the farm is located is too dry. “When it decides to shine it is really hot like there is no tomorrow and pastures end up drying. That is why we are not having good production from Zirobwe but we are adapting to irrigation,” She points out.
With other challenges being pests and diseases and ready market prices for organic products.
What she thinks of the organic movement
The organic movement is more of a renaissance than a revolution. Until the 1920’s, all agriculture was generally organic. Farmers used natural means to feed the soil and to control pests. It was not until the Second World War that farming methods changed dramatically. It was when research on chemicals designed as nerve gas showed they were also capable of killing insects. But the organic movement has sprung directly from the customers’ demand as they have become sick of the health hazards associated with the use of chemicals in food and household products.
“To me I even think the organic movement is cheaper and accessible to every farmer for example if we are talking of the fertilizers we can do green, animal, urine and even us the people we are part of the fertilizers we need,” she says.
“Organic farming can help anyone anywhere because all you need is around you. If you are talking about drugs for the chicken and goats, these are herbs and shrubs around you. With organic farming we are having access to the food, drugs, pesticides and fertilizers around us and organic farming should be the way to go and is the way to go”.
Are there challenges associated with organic farming that make it difficult for farmers to convert to these practices?
Zawedde thinks new farmers have not given a chance to organic farming. Unlike the old ones like our grandparents weren’t using drugs and chemical fertilizers but we have been eating green vegetables and fruits, chicken, beef, mutton and only organic produce.
“I think farmers have not given chance to organic farming because they are more convinced that these chemical fertilizers on the market are more rapid for results, which is false. When it comes to organic farming, we need more of prevention than cure in most cases like you have to make plants resistant from day one,” she addresses.
What she thinks of the current situation of agriculture in Uganda
Uganda is currently struggling with a high prevalence of poverty, food insecurity, and social inequality as a significant percentage of the population suffers from acute food shortage. Zawedde however sees a positive of more youths joining farming.
“I am seeing more youths into farming though we need to create more awareness about production because most youths fear that agriculture is expensive and that is why we should even encourage organic farming more because you can produce cheaply and more encouragement because people may think that agriculture is for the poor, retired and thinking you can’t reap much then we would not be having food to eat. Because there are lots of green vegetables, fruits and food on the market. It means farmers are also making money,” she expressed.
Her advice for someone thinking about becoming a farmer?
“To the women and the youths, I strongly recommend taking on agriculture because it is one thing you do with passion and passion means love. You can start with what you have, you don’t need to start like Carol because I started 4 years ago but you can start and be like me. I would encourage them to take it on because it is a profitable business, let no one lie to anyone that it isn’t profitable. Like I said we could not be having food on the market,” Zawedde insisted
The benefits from practicing mixed farming/agri tourism?
According to Zawedde, with mixed farming, you are making your own farmer shop, you are selling anytime it means you have a different product line. If chickens are not ready, you are selling goats so it keeps supporting one another.
“It is like a shop because different products are getting ready at different times, you are selling anytime, and it means you have continuous cash flow. While Agri tourism is one of my loves, this is where a farmer earns from his or things without or before selling because when you come to my farm to see my chicken, goats you have to pay me.”
“But still it is helping me to have an available market with no transport costs because when you come to my farm you are getting interested in my goats, chicken that you are asking me to sell to you. It also helps me in terms of value addition minus any expenses when doing meat testing, the only addition we are doing is fire. We are cooking for you.” She added.
The challenges she faces in these times of climate change and how the weather does affects her work
Changes in climate and extreme weather have already occurred and are increasing challenges for agriculture nationally and globally. Many of the impacts are expected to continue or intensify in the future. Because of the sensitivity of agriculture to weather and climate conditions, these impacts can have substantial direct and indirect effects on farm production and profitability.
“Like other farmers it affects me because when you expect production you are not having it. When it starts raining, it rains like there is no tomorrow and the same applies to sunshine but at our farm, we are adapting to irrigation which is also very expensive. It is upon the government to help out farmers because the irrigation system they encourage is very expensive and complicated,” she explained.
The future of women in Agriculture?
Zawedde believes more and more women in Uganda are turning to agriculture as a career. This concept is nothing new, but female farmers are on the rise for a variety of reasons. Now more than ever, women are contributing to our food system in several meaningful ways. That said, the gender and wage gaps that were apparent decades ago are still so today. Many accommodations need to be made for the industry to treat everyone equally.
In most cultures here in Uganda, most men are not directly involved in cultivation or in digging. The issue of food insecurity mainly touches the hearts and souls of women because they are the main providers of food for the table. If the children begin crying it is the women who are going to feel this pain.
“I really think women are having a bright future and the future of agriculture is women in Uganda and when I look at women already in the system I just get proud, how they are using their brains and being innovative, they are trying to change things, when a woman has a touch it’s different,” she said.
Additionally, today’s female farmers tend to have higher degrees than their male counterparts and a growing number hold leadership positions in agricultural organizations and boards. They care deeply about sustainable practices, educating future generations, and building community. It’s safe to say women are making an impact on the industry.