The Women in an Oil Palm Plantation where they pick falling fronds which they use for making brooms
Women and children in Kalangala district are making fortunes in adding value to some of the neglected residues of the palm oil trees grown in the area.
In 2000, the government with support from the International Fund for Agriculture Development- (FAD) started mobilizing for the cultivation of Palm Oil trees in Kalangala district’s main island of Bugala, as an alternative source of livelihood for communities in the area.
Although according to the government, the project primarily targeted to increase the country’s domestic production of vegetable oil and its products, hundreds of women and children in Kalangala are earning unexpected incomes at the sideways of the project, through adding value to the fronds of the oil palm trees.
Sylvia Nagganda, one of the Women leaders at the Bongo landing site in Mugoye Sub County says, the fronds (leaves) of the palm oil trees are supporting the growth of the local crafts industry, from which they are earning substantial incomes.
She explains that the fronds and leafstalks are usually abandoned in plantations to decompose; the women are inventing soft and hard brooms that are later sold for cleaning purposes.
According to her, the making of brooms started off as a small idea that was introduced in the area by some women who came to the islands as migrant casual workers from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2016.
“It was an idea we had not thought of because we were used to brooms that were traditionally made from totally different plants. But when it was introduced, we gradually started trying it out and eventually established that it actually works out,” she says.
Nagganda says that on average, a person can make at least 8 brooms a day that are usually sold between 1000-1300 Shillings each.
In every plantation, there are women and children who go after the harvesting crews, to pick the green palm fronds, and carry them home, where they are eventually dried and trimmed to reasonable sizes before they are accordingly sold to middlemen, who later distribute them to the different parts of the country.
Resty Nuharunga and Rose Owamahoro, who are residents of Kibaale parish in Mugoye sub-county, appreciate the brooms as a supplementary income-generating project, especially for women who don’t have the privilege of owning land where they can setup plantations.
The duo who confesses to being refugees from the Nakivale Settlement Camp in Kisoro district says that they found a survival from the spontaneous project of the broom-making.
On a monthly average, each of them can raise 200,000 shillings from the brooms.
Owamahoro, who is a mother of six, reveals that she is capable of sending her children to school using the proceeding from the brooms, without necessarily waiting for her husband; a casual laborer at a local palm oil processing plant.
Teopista Nakiyingi, a resident of Kizira explains that the innovation of making brooms has helped women and children to get spontaneous financial empowerment, even when they do not directly own oil palm plantations.
To some extent according to her, the crafts business is enabling them to get reasonable incomes as opposed to other manual works, the women would be hired to do in the plantations.
David Balironda, the General Manager of Kalangala Oil Palm Growers’ Cooperative Trust-KOPGT says that the booming crafts business is partly helping the women close the financial gap with their male counterparts, who according to records dominate the oil palm growing project.
According to records, women contribute 30 percent (1,454) of a general population of 2,063 oil palm out-growers.
He says, their participation in other value additional initiatives is helping women close the inequality because women are able to make additional incomes from the sector.