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Ag in my Land: Life on a Ugandan coffee farm

Ag in my Land is an online series that celebrates farming globally, providing an insight in to what life is like on-farm around the world.

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What is like to be a coffee farmer and a woman in Uganda?

Christine Kyokunga, 24, lives with her husband in the village of Kyampungu, in the Kanungu district of South Western Uganda.

 

She farms 0.6 hectares (1.5 acres), which she inherited from her father-in-law, and is one of a group of female coffee farmers who will take part in a project run by the charity, Farm Africa, focused on equipping women living in Kanungu with the land, tools and training they need to grow enough coffee and sell it for a fair price. The project will be paid for by matched funding from the UK Government for Farm Africa’s Coffee is Life appeal, which runs until 8 May 2019.

 

Farm Africa’s new project will help women fill leadership roles in community-run and owned coffee trading and processing cooperatives, and will help women like Christine move from providing labour to adding value to their coffee, marketing it and securing good prices


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Tell us about your farm?

My farm is located in Kyampungu cell, Nyarurambi parish and Rugyeyo sub county Kanungu district - Kanungu is one of the south western Uganda districts bordering with Congo and lyies around 450 kilometres from Kampala, Uganda’s capital city.

My farm is around 0.6ha (1.5 acres) and I own it with my husband. We inherited it from my husband’s parents after we got married.

If women were handed as much land as men, there would be more food, production and development. I think my mother-in-law can afford to give me half of her land, maybe half an acre. With that extra half acre, I would be able to plant more coffee trees.

When my parents pass on their land however, I expect that they will divide the land into four equally-sized portions. Each of my three brothers will receive one plot, and my five sisters and I will have to share one. I do feel discriminated against.

 

What do you farm?

I have a coffee shamba and banana plantation. I also grow beans, potatoes, Irish potatoes, pumpkins and cassava on the same land.

I have six goats, four chickens and one female duck with seven young ones. The goats graze on the land and in the evenings, I feed them on banana pilling. The birds graze free range around the homestead and when I have planted beans and other short period crops which they can spoil, I keep them in a bird house and feed them on chicken marsh.

I don’t get enough income to provide supplementary feed, and I don’t have enough land to grow animal feeds like reeds and carriandra.

 

Can you describe your farm and the surrounding area?

My farm is in a hilly area with some rising 1000 meters above sea level. I don’t have a farmhouse, but there is a small room next to the kitchen reserve for livestock at night. Our farm is near Kanungu town council, around 12km away, and we are 1km from our village trading center where we buy household items from. The Kanungu town council provides the biggest market for our farm products.

 

Tell us about daily life?

I normally get up around six in the morning and prepare the kids for school. Then I let the birds out to graze, and take the goats to the farm for morning grazing. I always tie the goats on ropes to avoid destroying neighbouring crops. After, I go and dig in the garden and weed the banana plantation. By 11am, if it’s coffee harvesting season, I will harvest at least 3 trees of coffee. By 1pm, I start preparing lunch for the family and I normally prepare one meal for the day - lunch and supper combined. After lunch, I rest for at least an hour and go back to collect more coffee or tend to the gardens.

 

What challenges do you face?

As a farmer and housewife, I am faced with the following problems;

  • Small fragmented pieces of land, leading to low volumes of harvest and hence low incomes
  • Poor quality harvests due to poor quality seedlings, inputs and lack of access to fertilisers to improve yield quality
  • Rodents and pests that commonly destroy crops while in the gardens and after harvest
  • Lack of produce holding equipment like silos during and after harvest, leading to a lot of post-harvest losses
  • Low prices of produce after harvesting when we need money to re-invest in another season. The challenge is the price is dropping. The problem is the processing of Arabica - there isn’t an Arabica processing centre near to our home

What is the farming community like?

Most farmers in our community are smallholder farmers with small pieces of land. Out of every 10 farmers, you find more than 7 farmers living on less than a hectare of land. Most of these households have more than 10 members in a home, making it hard to survive. Farmers depend on nature to farm, with less use of fertilisers and other yield management practices.

What do you like about farming?

I mostly love working in the banana plantation because it’s less tasking, and in addition I get food for the family. I also sell some for my personal expenditure compared to coffee, where I do most of the work yet the revenues go to my husband. Also, within the banana plantation I grow other food crops like beans and cassava, so I enjoy that too.

 

What do you think are the biggest differences between UK farming and the way you farm?

 

My farming involves a lot of human labour - apart from the hoe, there is no other equipment or machine and I assume the British use a lot of machines to help. I also depend on rain and sunshine for any harvest but in the UK, there is irrigation, plus the addition of fertilisers.

 

Are there any cultural traditions you can tell us about?

Here, I cannot determine what we eat other than what we grow on the farm. It’s the husband’s decision to buy meat or to slaughter a chicken for food. All the income from coffee goes to a man, and he determines to use it for any expenditure without a woman’s consent. A woman however has to seek permission to visit a market or even to go and check on your parents, but a man can go anywhere without informing his wife and once he is back, you are not supposed to ask him where he has been.

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