Last July, around 215 women and 31 men of the Women’s Advocacy Network (WAN) Groups received livelihood and entrepreneurship trainings in Alero, Atiak, Pader, Pabo and Gulu town. The purpose was to equip them with relevant knowledge and skills based on their income generating activities (IGA’s) for the proper management and sustainability of their projects. The groups had collectively selected two IGAs they wanted to deliver to the market in order to create a community-based sustainable livelihood. Most of the groups opted for new farming strategies, and were willing to embrace new market opportunities.
For instance, the breeding of the recently arrived Kuroiler chicken from South East Asia shapes new possibilities for multiple reasons. Firstly, Kuroiler chickens grow faster and bigger than local chickens, and lay more and bigger eggs. The market value of a Kuroiler chicken and its eggs are therefore two to three times higher than the local chicken. Furthermore, when the houses are modified, cleaned, and the vaccines have been given, the Kuroiler chickens are easy to keep – they eat a diet based on local foods – and are strong. Other selected activities included goat rearing, pine tree farming and more.
All trainings were given by properly qualified sub-county officials (e.g. veterinarians and certified farmers), who were willing to share their contacts details. As some participants complained that the national government had not responded to their calls for assistance, the JRP believes that these IGA initiatives will empower the groups, because now they can directly contact the local experts when help is needed. Furthermore, the participants shared their knowledge and learned from each other during group and plenary sessions. Since the trainings were interactive, there were vibrant discussions and many questions were answered. Overall, the participants enjoyed the trainings and requested for more, and even want to invite their relatives for the upcoming activities.
All trainings covered the following topics: goat rearing, poultry keeping, best farming practices, business enterprise, housing, hygiene, cost-benefit analysis, reproduction of animals, diseases, vaccinations and possible risks, and addressed some management and planning skills. The trainers stressed that record keeping and documentation is vital for a successful business. For example, pine tree farming is time consuming and will only be successful, if seven steps (lining, marking, pitting, ring weeding, spraying, planting and site selecting garden) are meticulously taken in accordance with seasonal changes. Furthermore, each necessary vaccination for livestock should be given at a specific age of the animal, which makes record keeping a crucial exercise. The same counts for the reproduction of animals.
Multiple times during the trainings, there were smiling faces and clapping hands. The women’s groups were excited by the opportunity provided to them by the JRP to improve their own livelihoods with dignity. Each participant is now equipped with (new) farming techniques, as well as management and planning skills that they can apply to create a sustainable income. The groups learned to manage their own budget, and draft their own financial plans. Some groups even arranged set prices for their products on the market, which will be beneficial for the entire community and create more trust among its members.
It is also important to manage any potential conflicts which may arise. Some groups already received training sessions on group dynamics on behalf of their own request, and other groups might receive similar trainings in the future. In our view, the trainings contributed to community building, since it brought the members together and created a healthy and safe environment for engagement. During lunch breaks, women helped each other with their children, were chatting with one another, and had some time for themselves. It was noticeable that the participants dressed up nicely during the training. Lalam from Gulu town is quoted as saying “it is a social event, we interact with each other. This group also organizes activities, like dancing together.”
We observed that in most trainings, there were consistently 5 to 6 men participating. They were often seated in the back, and were the last to ask questions or take food when offered. Although JRP’s livelihood project focuses primarily on war-affected women, it also creates a space for men to be included and involved. In the long run, it is possible that the JRP will contribute to changing stereotypes about gender roles, and the acceptance of women’s agency and entrepreneurship through the participation of men in women’s empowerment programs.
The JRP is delighted to stimulate and contribute to the empowerment of its Women’s Advocacy Network Groups and its communities by working to lift living standards. In order to make maximum use of this potential, and to make this project as successful as possible, we have been in active talks with our main donor, the Uganda Fund, to incorporate refreshment trainings in the near future. JRP will be monitoring and documenting success stories and the impact of the project. The distribution of the start-up capital takes place in August and September 2017, and further updates will be posted.
(Jumi van der Velde was a volunteer with JRP)