Breaking Gender Barriers in Farmer Field Schools to Ensure Sustainable Farming
Gender inequality does not only affect progress in leadership but also undermines the progress towards sustainable agriculture. The increasing high levels of inequality are still a challenge in achieving sustainable agriculture making it harder to increase productivity, reduce poverty and hunger. Achieving sustainable agriculture requires communities to embrace gender equity.
Women who are the biggest contributors in agriculture especially for developing countries still face limitations in agriculture productivity than their male counterparts. These limitations include lack of access to trainings, machinery, land, financing, extension services. among others. All these disparities increase the knowledge gap for women farmers. In rural communities, the high cultural norms still remain a threat to food security since all productive resources are owned by men. This leads to low land productivity exposing communities to food insecurity, hence slowing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially SDG 2 which can only be achieved through promoting sustainable agriculture, food security and improved nutrition.
Through the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach, ESAFF Uganda employs different modules like the Gender Journey Module and Gender Action Learning System (GALS) methodology to help farmers identify the gender issues within their communities and adopt realistic solutions to address them amicably. These tools help farmers to understand the relationship between men and women hence addressing the power imbalances in the community.
During the refresher ToT workshops in Amuria, Apac and Adjumani districts FFS facilitators shared some of the gender experiences within their communities and how they have affected agriculture production, food and nutrition security. They also shared personal gender barriers that affect service delivery.
“While implementing the FFS on local food plants, several issues rise up and gender is a common factor in the different FFS activities. If gender is not well observed, either the women or men are likely to be oppressed and this lags the interest of the FFS members causing drop outs, setting unclear objectives, absenteeism and lack of commitment.”- Stella Ikiring, Chairperson Omortok FFS in Orungo Sub county, Amuria district
Etengu Stephen indicated that society has dictated most of the gender roles within our communities. Mindset of community, cultural norms all influence the decisions made in all aspects of life. I have been to gatherings where women only speak after getting permission from their husbands. Men always believe that women have nothing sensible to say.
Men are so inclined to some activities making it difficult to cause change because they believe that certain activities can only be done by women. But there are still activities that we can leverage on to strike the balance in gender roles. Among those include decision making, savings, monitoring fields, record keeping, planting among others. These gender roles can be adjusted and accepted by the community, the work is now upon everyone to lead the change they desire and this can only be achieved if communities work together towards achieving an equitable society.
Enyetu Peter, a small scale farmer in Amuria district encouraged the facilitators to be change agents in the context of gender. He further said that as farmers they need to involve everybody because together they can achieve gender justice and sustainable agriculture.
Small-scale farmers in rural communities now understand the effects of gender inequality in ensuring food and nutrition security and reducing the poverty gap that traps women. Gender mainstreaming is sustainable and highly effective in addressing most community challenges while ensuring efficient resource allocation. This will boost productivity leading to food and nutrition security as well as economic development.