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Empowering Women in the Coffee Value Chain

Photo by Farm Africa / Jjumba Martin Photo by Farm Africa / Jjumba Martin
The problem

Women provide the bulk of low-paid labour in Uganda’s coffee sector, yet it is men who market the coffee, run the cooperatives and have control over the majority of the profits.

A Farm Africa study carried out in Kanungu district in western Uganda showed that women provide 58 per cent of the labour during fieldwork and 72 per cent of the labour during post-harvest handling. Despite this, female coffee farmers typically earn 38 per cent less than men, do not have the same market opportunities, have limited access to resources and less say over the planning and supply segment of coffee production.

In Kanungu district, land ownership is a major obstacle to women’s engagement in the coffee value chain as typically it is men who own the land, make decisions about how it is managed, and sell the coffee produced on it. This affects women’s ability to meet the criteria to join coffee cooperatives, access inputs on credit and make decisions regarding the proceeds from coffee sales.

What are we doing?

Farm Africa provided women from 2,640 households in Kanungu with the support they needed to access the coffee market, participate in coffee cooperatives, take on leadership roles, and make changes to decision-making dynamics within households, so they could have more say over the profits generated from their agriculture efforts.

Increasing access to resources

We helped female coffee farmers gain access to the land they needed to grow coffee on, and supported them to get credit so they could invest in their business and have more say over expenditure at household level. We did this by:

  • Establishing women-led Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) and linking them to formal financial institutions to enable women to save and invest in their businesses, and meet their household costs
  • Providing women with financial management training
  • Using Gender Action Learning Stystems (GALS) methodologies to educate and empower men and women to work together more equitably in order to achieve household goals
  • Working with families to introduce voluntary household land-use agreements that provide women with a greater level of control over a designated portion of the family’s land.

Increasing access to coffee cooperatives and leadership roles

Women are under-represented within coffee growing cooperatives. The project worked to instil a fairer working culture and supported women to assume positions of responsibility within cooperatives. We have:

  • Supported women to register with coffee growing cooperatives
  • Identified internal policies, pay structures and procedures that deny women entry to cooperatives and powerful positions within them, and addressed these barriers to make sure cooperatives are more gender inclusive
  • Provided cooperatives with bespoke training on inclusive governance and gender inclusion in order to increase recognition of the value of female coffee producers and address institutional inequalities
  • Given female coffee producers leadership training so they have the skills to take on senior positions within cooperatives and advance their careers
  • Run an evidence-based communications campaign that demonstrated the community-wide benefits of empowering women.

Farm Africa conducted a gender analysis study to better understand the role of women in the coffee supply chain in the Kanungu district of Uganda. The study mapped the economic value of women’s work at each stage of the coffee value chain.

Farm Africa Live webinar

In December 2020, Grace Arineitwe, Hildah Turyamusiima and Patience Ninsiima, participants in the project, spoke to British farmers Will Evans, Minette Batters, Stuart Roberts, Adam Bedford and Rachel Hallos about the common challenges and opportunities faced by farmers worldwide.

Who are we working with?

This project was funded by UK aid from the UK Government with matched funding for Farm Africa’s 2019 Coffee is Life UK Aid Match appeal.

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