Seeds of Hope, Harvests of Peace

A farmer turned lawyer, Anita Kiddu Muhanguzi, is making a difference on ground in Uganda. She works to build the farming community by creating rights awareness and encouraging inclusion through advocacy. Seeds of Tumaini is her brainchild. Here is an interview with Anita, where she talks about her journey, her work, and some milestones from her time on field so far.

Starting from the top... Can you start by telling me a little about yourself and your childhood and growing years that define what you do today?
I am an advocate who turned into a farmer and I live in Uganda. I started farming to supplement my income, which at the time, was not enough for my family. As I took to farming, I realized that the rural communities around our farms were suffering, and their struggle was worse than ours. Their crops were dying simply because they lacked information on using modern farming practices and lack of hybrid seeds that could boost their production and income. Recognizing these problems, I founded an organization of my own, called Sowing Seeds of Tumaini.

That's beautiful. Can you tell me a bit about your vision and goals through Sowing Seeds of Tumaini?
In addition to the recognition of farmers’ struggles, we also realized that these farmers are constantly being subjected to discrimination, especially when it comes to the market. We do not have a regulator governing our markets. This means that it is left open and free for shrewd businessmen to take advantage of vulnerable farmers, who are not aware of market trends, market practices, and approaches to selling their produce. I remember this one incident in the market. My produce was pushed aside because a man who had come in after me had been in the market longer than I had. However, even though my cucumbers looked much better than his in terms of size and freshness, my products were not given any value. Because he was known to the broker, his produce was bought. This made me so angry. I realized that many women are taken advantage of and because there is no one to speak on their behalf, this continued unabated. Sowing Seeds of Tumaini aimed at fighting for the farmer and addressing all these challenges. I started the organization with my husband and my friend, who is also a lawyer and a farmer. Our vision is simple: We want a world where rural communities are leaders of social economic and civic transformation. Our goals are to eradicate poverty by building the capacity of these rural farmers in modern farming practices and by educating them on their rights so that they are more conscious and aware of their rights and are equipped to stand up for themselves. Our major goal is to ensure that these farmers have access to hybrid seeds that can boost their production and income. We also want to equip them so that they are able to fight for fair market prices in the market, especially when they are in groups.

What are some of your challenges in this journey?
Growing up as a child, we did not have a farm or a village that we used to go to. My dad was born in the city and so our grandparents were really nearby. My mum is Ethiopian, so we were always in the city. However, one thing that my parents always emphasized as we were growing up was the fact that we should always be grateful because there were many people who were suffering. My dad always helped people when he could, and this habit of his stayed with me. My passion is to reach out whenever I can and lift someone up. Since I am not a fan of litigation, I found my passion in helping vulnerable and marginalized communities with my profession.

As a woman in this space, do you see yourself dealing with patriarchal responses from the social set up you work with?
One of the biggest challenges that we have faced is that our society is too patriarchal. Getting into these communities and striving to reach out to the people was hard at first. This was because we were women, and the men thought that we were not respectful. They resisted us for a period of two years until they finally realized that we were working in their best interests. Now, our programs are centered on including more men. We try as much as possible to ensure that the men remain involved and have them appreciate the fact that the women do 90% of the work on the farms. We get them to recognize that women do indeed deserve an equal share in the profits after the harvests, and get them to see reason in acknowledging that women deserve to have equal rights in the family property.

Can you share a bit about the responses you receive to the male inclusion projects you run?
The responses have been very positive towards the trainings we host. Since we have not yet received funding, we concentrate on capacity building and rights awareness for now. So far, the response is overwhelming. One of my memorable moments in this space goes back to when, after a training, one of the older members in the group thanked me personally for trying to uplift the community. He was grateful that we had also connected him with doctors to help him with his eyesight. That was very rewarding!