Engendered promises, gendered challenges : Changing patterns of labor, control and benefits among smallholder households growing NERICA in Uganda

University dissertation from Lund University

Abstract: NERICA is a new group of high-yielding and stress-tolerant upland rice varieties, developed by the Africa Rice Center to address the continent-wide rice challenge, poverty and food insecurity. Recognizing that African women farmers do not always benefit from the introduction of productivity-enhancing technology and higher-value crops, the aim of my thesis is to understand processes leading to NERICA-related wellbeing outcomes among differently comprised grower households in Hoima District, Uganda, by examining inter- and intrahousehold gender dynamics. More specifically, I analyze how the cultivation of NERICA influences smallholder women, men and children’s daily lives and wellbeing. My thesis is qualitatively designed and driven in that I am particularly interested in understanding and elucidating the subjective and embodied experiences of the NERICA growers in Hoima District. In researching their complex, gendered realities I have been using an integrated mixed methods approach. The research results are presented in three articles. I show that for many smallholder households, especially those headed by women, NERICA has turned out to be an economic opportunity in terms of cash income that goes unmatched. I also show that many women in male-headed households are more successful in bargaining for shares of the NERICA proceeds than they ever have been in relation to the proceeds from traditional cash crops like tobacco. At the same time, I identify several gendered challenges in relation to the production of NERICA in Uganda. These are related to, on one hand, female-headed households’ worse access to land and remunerative markets than male-headed households, which is constraining their production and market performance in relation to NERICA, and, on the other, the extreme labor burdens that NERICA demands in bird and weed control, which affects women and children’s wellbeing negatively by exacerbating their time poverty and energy expense. My thesis can be read as a gender-informed analysis of the recent surge of NERICA in Hoima District, Uganda. But the concern of the thesis goes beyond both NERICA and Uganda. It points to the value of considering female- and male-headed households’ various endowments and capabilities in specific localities, as well as differences in gendered resources, roles and responsibilities among women and men farmers (and their children) in these localities, when new productivity-enhancing agricultural technology and higher-value crops are introduced.