Uganda: Lilian Nakigozi is making women smile with vertical farming

In Uganda, smallholder farmers champion agricultural productivity, and women constitute 76 percent of agricultural labor. Hence, women play a vital role in the sector. Logically, a higher number should result in higher output, but this is not the case; women’s productivity is relatively poor compared to men’s. This is because, in addition to the responsibilities shared by all smallholder farmers, such as the rippling effect of climate change and a lack of access to agricultural resources, the burden faced by women farmers is exacerbated by cultural norms. 

Naluzze Bonita, a single mother of three children living in one of the suburbs of Kampala, Uganda, is one such woman. Being a full housewife with no source of income had its pitfalls. Fortune smiled at her in 2018 when the Women Smiles Uganda team approached her to start smart agriculture. Women Smiles Uganda (WSU) is a social enterprise improving the lives of women and young girls in under-served communities of Africa, especially those living in urban slums who are landless and have limited spaces through smart agriculture using vertical farms. This meeting positively changed the course of her life. “After the training, I purchased a vertical farm unit at a fee of 150,000 Ugandan shillings ($42) and got quality seedlings from Women Smiles Uganda, and that is how I started my farming journey. Now I plant cotton, herb spinach, lettuce, and strawberries,” she said.

Bonita isn’t alone in this struggle. Lilian Nakigozi, founder of Women Smiles Uganda has a similar story.  “As I grew older, I promised myself that I needed to do something to change the experience of women and young girls in urban slums and underserved communities. That is why I ventured into vertical farming and established Women Smiles Uganda in 2018,” Nakigozi said.

“Opportunities abound in the use of urban farming. Although we have many lands in Africa, they are infertile, and farmers are experiencing climate change. The only way is to go into vertical farming. There are also very few women who own land and have land titles to their names. That poses a big challenge because we constitute more than 70 percent of the agriculture workforce. With vertical farming, they are not limited by space and they can grow a variety of crops using the small space they have,” Nakigozi explained.

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