Women embrace backyard farming to fight Covid-19 effects in oil-land

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Women lift a bag of soil for kitchen gardening. (Photo: John Kibego).

When you look at women lifting bags of soil, plastic waste and farm tools outside the main building of Glory Summit Hotel in Hoima city, displays their anxiety to alternative sources of livelihood that can get them out of the challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

I have seen some of these more than 50 women alighting from a coaster vehicle returning from Butimba in Kikuube district for a field trip to a female model bee keeper.

They are actually undergoing training on alternative sources of livelihood hoped to help them to withstand the effects of the lockdown that constrained their sources of income following transport restrictions and closure of open markets in March this year.

Bee keeping, vegetable and mushroom growing that needs limited space and not labour intensive are the skills they are acquiring in this training facilitated by the National Association of Environmentalist (NAPE).

The women also displayed hand craft materials like mats and baskets alongside sharing their COVID-19 lockdown experience.

The beneficiaries believe it will help them to improve food security, fight malnutrition in their homesteads and most importantly minimise cases of domestic violence that increased during the lockdown.

This optimism comes two weeks after the murder of a 32-year-old mother of five, Gorret Ayebale who was battered by her husband, Lawrence Busobozi in a domestic brawl over an intention to divert money reserved for family upkeep.

Police confirmed the incident that took place at Kabaale trading centre in Buseruka sub-county, Hoima district after Busobozi’s arrest.

Beatrice Rukanyanga, a Hoima-based gender activist looks at the skilling move for women as a step forward towards combating the problem of domestic violence.

Audio: Rukanyanga on women economic empowerment (English)

Rukanyanga highlighted the need for more training since the number of women plagued by the COVID-19 lockdown is very big with a wide knowledge gap.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 1 in 3 women has experienced physical or sexual violence during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Christine Ayebale, a woman with disability living in the neighbourhood of the oil refinery land describes the training as a very relevant basing on her physical disability.

Ana Kwikiriza and Sinata Oroma also pledged to take action as soon as they return home.

Participants’ voxpop on training (4Rs & Kiswahili)
Women learn how to plant carrots in a kitchen garden. (Photo: John Kibego).

People have been differently affected, with vulnerable groups facing the pinch deeper.

Some of the beneficiaries of this project are women living in Kyakabooga resettlement area for the oil refinery affected persons whose land for cultivation is located far away.

Others live in Kigyayo Internally Disabled People’s (IDP) camp in Kiziramfumbi sub-county, Kikuube district who were evicted ahead of the take-off of a huge sugarcane plantation and processing project.

Yoanina Musiimenta says the skills will help her get sources of vitamins and fight off malnutrition especially among children by growing vegetables on her small plot of land.

Audio: Musiimenta on training (Runyankole/Rukiga)

Deborah Nakalanzi, one of the facilitators narrated to Kazi-njema News how easy it is to practice kitchen farming since most of the materials used like waste plastic basins, jerry cans and containers can be acquired at little or no cost.

Women learn how to use plastic waste for kitchen gardening. (Photo: John Kibego).

Sostine Namanya, a programme officer in charge of gender and food security at the NAPE, tips women on networking and forming cooperative societies to be able to get support and reliable market for their products.

According to her, it will help them benefit from the population boom alongside oil activities.

Audio: Namanya on women economic empowerment (English)

Following the discovery of oil and gas in the Albertine region, the poor majority started losing land either forcefully or tactfully being bought off while others have been relocated to pave way for government projects including the 29-square kilometre oil refinery with compensation.

By any of the forces behind displacement, women have been frontline victims. This is due to the traditionally acceptable state that has no respect for the land rights of women, both from their parents and husbands.

Share of compensation packages has been a main source of domestic violence amongst families affected by projects like the oil refinery. Husbands have on many occasions used compensation money to marry new wives leaving the old ones languishing in poverty and disarray with children.

Thousands of people continue fearing displacement due to oil related developments including the feeder pipelines, road constructions and the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

Rural women have more hope in self-sustaining alternative livelihoods than living a traditional life if they are to tap into the oil and gas industry.

The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) says more $20b will be invested in the development of oil related infrastructure development ahead of seeing a drop of commercial crude oil on the surface.

The authority has been advising people to think creatively and benefit from this multi billion investment.

But women activists have always challenged the government to critically think about the fate of women whose majority are less or not educated due to the traditional background where girl children were never considered for education opportunities and land inheritance.

They argue that no deliberate action has been taken by government to empower women in the Albertine region yet they the most vulnerable when social economic changes are happening.

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