Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Urban Agriculture and Women's Socio-Economic Empowerment:
A Case Study of Kiswa and Luwafu Areas in Kampala City

by Peace T. Musiimenta
October 2002

The complete paper can be read here. (Word Document, 4,534 words)

This web page includes the Table of Contents, Abstract, Introduction, Conclusion and Recommendations.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
List of Acronyms
Definition of Urban Agriculture
Why Women choose Urban Agriculture
Contribution of Urban Agriculture to Women's Socio-economic Empowerment

Problems faced by Urban Female Farmers


This paper is based on a research that was carried out in two selected divisions of Nakawa and Makindye in Kampala City, Uganda, in 1997.The focus of the is on the importance of urban agriculture to urban dwellers' livelihoods and specifically to women who dominate the informal sector. It shows that women dominate urban agriculture due to a number of socio-economic factors that include gender division of labour, low incomes, food security and desire to earn personal income This paper discusses the relative empowerment function of urban agriculture to women. It brings out the argument that despite its marginalized consideration as a land use activity, urban agriculture improved the socio- economic status of urban women. In fact, urban agriculture continues to be considered an illegal activity despite its enormous significance as regards feeding the city dwellers and improving low-income earners' incomes. Thus the paper also explores the continuity of the practice by discussing the problems encountered by urban farmers and especially women. Although women are said to be prospering in this informal sector, a number of constraints characterize their survival strategy. This sounds like a contradiction because despite the problems they encounter, most of those involved in urban agriculture are not ready to quit the practice. Therefore this paper brings out the rationale for women's persistence in this practice.


The literature on urban agriculture reveal that the practice has been expanding since the late 1970s in many parts of the less developing countries due to rapid urbanization, ineffective agricultural policies, crippled food distribution system, withdrawal of subsidies, reduction of wages, inflation, civil strife, unemployment, lax urban regulation and drought (Mazingira Institute, 1987; Mazingira Institute, 1994 and IDRC, 1993). In this era, more advanced urban agriculture is typically found in Asian cities which sometimes accept and promote food production as a critical urban function. In developing countries of Africa and Latin America, food insecurity is drawing more people in the burgeoning practice of urban agriculture (IDRC 1993, Mbiba 1995, Dankleman and Davidson, 1988).

Presently, some families in Western cities have garden allotments, mainly for vegetables but also poultry and small ruminants such as rabbits and guinea pigs. These supplement food budgets for the needy (Food, 2000; 1987). In New York City, gardens grow where urban wastelands existed few years ago, while apartment of St. Petersburg are countering the collapse of food systems in Russia by growing vegetables on rood top gardens (IDRC, 1994). Mbiba, in his study carried out in Zimbabwe, analyzed urban agriculture in Africa as widespread but in most cases on subsistence level. This in effect limits capital inputs and legitimacy, and hence facilitation of modern farming becomes difficult (Mbiba ,1995).

Studies done in developing countries have pointed out that women have increasingly turned to work in the informal sector (Bibangambah, 1992; IDRC, 1993, Maxwell and Zziwa, 1992; Dankleman and Davidson, 1988 and Mazingira, 1994). In Philippines, for example women, control 79% of street enterprises; and in the 7% that are owned by couples, women are the major decision-makers. In Senegal, 53% of vendors are women (Dankleman and Davidson, 1988). In Uganda, the situation is not different Bibagambah, 1992; Maxwell and Zziwa (1992). Furthermore, the 1991 population census results indicated that 52% of Uganda's population is women who dwell in urban areas, and that the majority are employed in the informal sector from where they derive their livelihood and that of their dependants.

Due to the socio-economic status of women and their traditional gender roles, they dominate informal sector of which urban agriculture is part. Therefore urban agriculture has become an important survival strategy of the poor who are mostly women, a measure of food security and a copying strategy for the urban poor. (Maxwell, 1993; IDRC, 1993)

The objective of this paper is to discuss the findings of a research that was done in 1997 by the author in Kiswa and Luwafu areas in Kampala City. The main objective of this study was to find out whether urban agriculture influenced women's socio-economic empowerment. Information was sought regarding forms of agriculture that women engage in, the problems they encounter and the rationale for women's choice of urban agriculture out of variety informal activities. This paper explores three major aspects, namely: why women choose urban agriculture as a survival strategy; how the practice contributes to women's socio-economic empowerment and, the problems they face in the process.

Conclusion and Recommendations

Despite the above-mentioned problems (viz, the practice being considered illegal, competitive land lack of extension services, gender role conflict, and others) women are not willing to stop farming in the city. This is because urban agriculture is a viable undertaking for them. Women participate in urban agriculture as a means of income diversification, to contribute to the food consumed by their families, and for self-improvement. It is clear that urban agriculture improves women's socio-economic status in a number of ways. For example, it gives them a chance to participate in decision- making, improves their economic status and enables them to acquire independent income.

This paper therefore, recommends the following:
Since Kampala still has a lot of vacant pieces of land in and around the city, Kampala City Council and any other concerned urban authority should zone areas for small-scale agriculture such as horticulture, mushroom growing, chicken production and some vegetable production. This would improve on food security in the city and create employment for the many people on the streets of Kampala, especially women who constitute the majority of the urban poor.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Animal and Fisheries Industry (MAAF should together with urban and other local authorities encourage high- yielding varieties and also low- growing crops like beans, peas, sweet potatoes, vegetables and others of that nature. This calls for regulating urban agriculture, especially regarding what should and should not be grown in the city.

To enable urban farmers to benefit and improve their socio-economic status, the Urban Authority Act that governs the land-use practices in the city should be amended to incorporate urban agriculture as an important informal sector. This neglected sector that feeds the city as IDRC 1994) suggests,

Theory needs to catch up to practice; the concept of continuum needs to replace the idea of dichotomy with regard to the types of food and animals that are adaptable to the urban or peri-urban landscape.

Let us join hands and popularize this activity for the sake of women's benefit.

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Revised Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture