Through an MOU, the Uganda Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (UFAAS) in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC) set out in September 2016 to implement a two-year - Integrating Gender and Nutrition within Agricultural Extension Services (INGENAES) project with a grant worth of $154,762, funded by the USAID-led Presidential Feed the Future initiative. The initiative strives “to increase agricultural production and the incomes of both men and women in rural areas who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.” The project objectives included:
1) Enhancing gender and nutrition awareness within the communities of farmer organizations targeted by private sector extension organizations through action oriented learning and capacity development
2) Supporting public sector extension strategy in the area of nutrition and gender integration in their extension approaches
3) Creating a robust community of practice around gender and nutrition integration in extension through networking, learning and information sharing, and
4) Providing training and mentoring opportunities for young professionals, particularly students, through a successful INGENAES Fellows Program.
The major components of the project included: Farmer Based Organisations (FBOs); Extension officers, INGENAES Fellows and the Community of Practice (CoP). As a result of the intervention, 31 FBOs were trained in the integration of Gender and Nutrition within their enterprises and followed up; simple training materials for the trained farmer leaders for use in training of other farmers in building gender sensitive and nutrition sensitive agriculture were developed; 85 (33 women and 52 men) private and public-sector extension workers were trained by Dr Kathleen Colverson from University of Florida; a gender and nutrition (G&N) Community of Practice (CoP) was created and maintained through quarterly meetings and social networking platforms (WhatsApp and Ask INGENAES discussions; and 11 student fellows (2 on PhD and 9 on Masters) from different public universities were supported. Currently, over 40, 000 individual men and women farmers have benefited from the trained persons.
Farmer Based Organizations
James Muhangi, Business Manager at Rubanga Cooperative Society in Mitooma District, Western Region is a beneficiary of INGENAES training. James attended a core training session that covered concepts of nutrition, gender and agri-business tools (including how to conduct a Rapid Market Assessment – RMA -- for nutrition-sensitive crops and activities) and was inspired by the business value of adding a high nutrition value crop to Rubanga’s existing enterprise mix. Post training, James mobilized a team to conduct an RMA to identify high value crops that are also have a high nutritional content. His team conducted market surveys through focus groups with farmers and weighed options that would support systematic marketing gains. Based on the results of the RMA, the Rubanga group added dry beans into their existing enterprise mixture of coffee and maize. James’ involvement with INGENAES has since increased since the RMA. He was a participant of the write shop to develop training material for the FBOs on gender and nutrition.
On the other hand, Okony Joseph, chairperson of Yelekeni Rural Producer Cooperative in Kiryandongo district and a beneficiary of the gender and nutrition trainings was inspired to revise the cooperative’s business plan to include gender and nutrition. Because of the need to improve household nutrition among different members of the group, they were able to present a business plan for soya bean and poultry production to International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and Child Fund. Consequently, IITA supported them with seeds of soya beans while Child Fund supported them with 120 chickens which will be distributed for multiplication at household level. Using the knowledge obtained, Okony had also started influencing household dynamics, with cases of increasing household joint planning between husbands and wives, increased agricultural production, reduced family conflicts, and increased participation of women in marketing.
Public Extension Workers
An active participant during the INGENAES project trainings, Bazalaki Nantatya, the District Agricultural Officer of Iganga district has since leveraged the skills obtained from the trainings in the coordination of the Uganda Multi-Sectoral Food Security and Nutrition Project being implemented in the district with World Bank funds. Nantatya asserts that, “Most women in Iganga are marginalized throughout the agricultural value chain and our original solution was just to implement affirmative action but I realised that people’s mind-sets were not changing”. He has thus resorted to training on the value of women empowerment throughout the agricultural value chain instead of just including women in groups. “Our primary entry point for the project is schools where we demonstrate to students how to set up kitchen gardens and we hope this will be transferred to their respective homes,” he adds.
Since her training with the INGENAES project, Dorcus Alowo, one of the INGENAES Fellows and a now a graduate student of Gulu University has developed the ability to analyse community situations through a gender lens. As a an assistant lecturer at Gulu University she is meticulous in helping her students to correctly apply gender tools in identifying issues related to food security and other aspects in communities. She partly attributes a fellowship she recently won to the gender knowledge and awareness she acquired during the INGENAES trainings. “I was fortunate to be selected for a one-month fellowship, which was probably due to my strength in the gender and nutrition components as I which I ably articulated in the application letter,” she explained.
Community of Practice (CoP)
Having participated in most of the gender and nutrition trainings, Dr. Saverino Nuwasiima the District Veterinary officer of Mitooma District also became an active participant of the Community of Practice (CoP). “I have been able to learn from my peers in the gender and nutrition trainings and also through the CoP online platform (Whatsapp).” Nuwasiima asserts. He has since let go of his earlier perception that agricultural extension was only about training on crop and animal husbandry to embrace the reality that gender and nutrition are among the key issues that affect the effectiveness of agricultural extension. He has also attained skills and knowledge on ICT use in agriculture, climate change and how these affect gender and nutrition.