The Gender-Responsive Participatory Market Chain Approach (G+PMCA) Triggers Women's Empowerment in Uganda
Engagement in the banana value chain (VC) is the basis of many people’s livelihoods in Uganda, and both governmental and nongovernmental actors have invested in this VC by upgrading actor’s capacities and facilitating linkages to markets for increased profits. However, the VC is dominated by men, who play a prominent role in shaping the power dynamics.
Women are absent in the remunerable and most profitable areas and are concentrated in the area of retail characterized by the highest post-harvest losses (PHL) (18.42%) and the lowest profit margins. Social norms and business entry requirements pose major constraints to women’s participation in areas such as wholesale. For instance, it is seen as inappropriate for women to travel at night, yet banana wholesale involves transporting the bananas at night when temperatures are low, to minimize loss due to ripening.
To encourage women to venture into areas they are currently absent from, the Reducing Postharvest Losses and Promoting Product Differentiation in the Cooking Banana Value Chain subproject — part of a CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas project titled "Expanding utilization of roots, tubers and bananas and reducing their post-harvest losses" (RTB-ENDURE) — implemented the gender-responsive participatory market chain approach (G+PMCA).
The G+PMCA champions concept at work
A key component of the PMCA is the emergence of "champions," or role models. The champions are important for representing and expanding what is achievable based on the concept of "seeing is believing." In the G+PMCA, the champions are useful in demonstrating the possibility of breaking through the barriers instituted by social norms in the minds of men and women. They inspire women to be more ambitious and aim higher by demonstrating the mindset and behavior needed to rise and attain desired goals. Women and men are engaged in discussing the disadvantages women face, including:
- Community and cultural expectations.
- Conflicts over the demands of family and career aspirations.
- Personal relationships.
The discussions also looked at how barriers can be removed with a focus on:
- The role of champions.
- The part played by family members, especially spouses.
- Individual personal characteristics.
Through these discussions, one participant, Annet Nabigaga, offered herself as a champion with an interest in engaging in the banana wholesale trade.
Leaping forward with G+PMCA: The case of Annet Nabigaga
In the framework of the G+PMCA, which was jointly facilitated by Bioversity International and the International Potato Center (CIP), Nabigaga was supported in developing a business plan. She was also linked to retailers in Kampala markets, credit institutions and to exporters through the Uganda Fruits and Vegetable Exporters and Producers Association (UFVEPA). To build her capacity in trade, she was trained in various themes, including proper management of banana plantations with a focus on market-demanded banana varieties; post-harvest handling, including sorting and grading; marketing, including record keeping; and quality management for high-end export markets. With an initial capital of about $1,500 (UGX 5 million), obtained through the sale of seasonal crops ($600) and credit from UFVEPA of $900, she started her banana wholesale business, supplying around 50 bunches and 10 bags of fingers to exporters and two retail outlets. In time, the exporters trusted her and gave her advance payment for the bananas, which helped her business to grow.
While the RTB-ENDURE project ended in 2016, Nabigaga continues to export bananas to Europe, where her target clients are Central and East Africans. Her business has expanded both locally and internationally as she continues to nurture these partnerships. Locally, she supplies approximately 200 bunches and 40 bags (100 kg) each week to eight banana retail outlets around Kampala and Entebbe. Internationally, she has registered an export company with the help of UFVEPA, and no longer sells through middlemen. She now earns an annual profit of $42,972 (UGX 159 million) and employs seven young people, while her relationship with her husband remains good. They discuss and plan together; she feels more respected at home and in the community, and her children are proud of her. She is a member and manages the sales arm of the Bakyala Kwekulakulanya farmers group. She buys bananas from the group at a fair price. Two other women from her group have joined her in local banana wholesale trade. As a result of the RTB-ENDURE project, the group is also involved in the banana seed multiplication business. Nabigaga is happy that she has set a good example not only to her children, but also the women and families in the community, as many come to her for advice.