(A version of this blog is also published on the CCAFS site)
The office of the community development officer (CDO) in Nwoya district (North-West Uganda) starts getting really busy around December, when the main harvest season kicks off. During harvest period, dozens of angry men and women concentrate every week in the district office seeking advice on how to get a fair and peaceful solution to their domestic conflicts arising over who is the rightful owner of the harvest and can decide on its final use.
The positions are clear. On the one side, as heads of the households and owners of the land, men consider that any products produced on their property is rightfully theirs and thus it should be up to them to decide what to do with it and the profit it generates. On the opposite side, women feel that since they contribute most (if not all) of the agricultural labour, their husbands have no right to come and take all the harvest to spend it, they argue, on non-priority-items. The conflict is served.
Many other couples, however, do not go to the district government office and decide to settle the conflict at home, which unfortunately ends, in too many occasions, in cases of gender-based violence. Farmers feel that these gendered conflicts over harvest, are only likely to increase in years with extended drought or that are marked with other climatic shocks that would result in reduced yields. Indeed, over the last few years, the perception in Nwoya district is that gender-based violence has increased generally, with clear spikes during the main harvest season. A quick look at the district offices confirms the seriousness of the matter. Almost all offices have hung up posters specifically designed to assess possible pathways to solve and prosecute gender-based violence issues.
Even as the Land Policy (2013) of Uganda grants women and men equal rights to own (and co-own) land, the reality in Nwoya, as in many other districts in the country, is very different. In Nwoya most of the land is effectively held under customary arrangements, by which most Acholi women do not have the right to own land and are only given access to it through their male counterparts and other male family members. This fact not only translates into conflict over harvests but might have other direct consequences as well, including women being less willing to make long and medium-term investments - such as climate-smart technologies – in a land that they do not own.
This situation raises the question: ‘What impact do gender considerations at the national level really have if at the grassroots level traditional norms and beliefs are still predominant?’ A recent study of the CGIAR research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security is currently seeking to answer this and related questions by analyzing the framing of gender issues in climate change related policies in Uganda and to explore its impacts on climate change adaptation at grassroots.
You can find this blog and more on the CCAFS website.