Women & Food Security in Uganda

Our resident Food Security expert Ransom Lekunze recently left us for Uganda, spending a month as a Visiting Lecturer for African Diaspora Support to African Universities. We caught up with him about his time spent juggling public lectures, co-publishing with Ugandan scholars, and carrying out his own research with the women behind Uganda’s agriculture industry.

Makerere University is the largest university in Uganda, rated by www.africa.com as #1 in Africa. In March, GNH Associate Lecturer Ransom Lekunze ventured there via a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York in association with the African Diaspora Support to African Universities programme. Ransom is a Swedish citizen, of Cameroonian descent, and the grant helps African diaspora scholars working in higher education outside Africa to share their expertise with academics and students in Africa and strengthen academic partnerships.

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Ransom on the day of his public lecture.

With only a month to make as much of a positive impact as possible, Ransom ran a two day workshop to strengthen Danish-Ugandan university research partnerships and delivered a popular public lecture on Climate Change and Food Security in Uganda. Through Skype video link, Hiranandani Vanmala and Runa Midtvåge in the food security research team at Metropol were able to join in the workshops from Denmark to present on the cross continent research projects “Promoting Food Security of Low Income Women in Central Uganda” and ‘Food Security for Vulnerable Women in Uganda’.

border of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda
aerial view showing the border of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda (Africa)

The lecture on ‘Climate Change and its impact on agriculture in Africa” was attended by over 500 participants from researchers, policy makers, university staff, and students. The talk covered the issues Africa may face in the future due to any existing growth and security being threatened by the uncertainty climate change poses, before challenging the audience to develop risk management strategies through potential solutions.

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The research team and the community in Nangabo, Uganda.

Prior to the visit,  Ransom and colleague Runa Midtvåge had been in the field collecting data for the project between Metropol and Makerere University, which focuses on exposing the vulnerability of women in Ugandan agriculture. With no right to buy land, women must work the land owned by men, harvest crops, sell the food and return any profit to their husbands, or other male landowner. They are trapped, with no independence, and no opportunity to improve their situations. Watch this space for a future co-publication between the universities, which hopes to propose potential solutions to empower Ugandan women.

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Runa Midtvåge in Ugandan dress.

Back on campus, Ransom found a study environment different to the privileged set up he was used to in Denmark at Metropol. Internet access was sporadic, and not the automatic and basic convenience he and Metropol students are familiar with. Class environments were often not prepared for teaching. Nevertheless, he found Makerere University students to be hungry for knowledge, but unfortunately also often hungry due to food shortages.

African Villaage
An african village in Kapchorwa in Uganda. Garbage is being burned.

Food insecurity also led to instability on campus, with food riots occurring on more than one occasion. Students were eager to learn as much as possible, especially from an academic from a Western higher education institution, who was regarded as a role model and inspiration. But without some of their basic needs being met, learning isn’t always possible, with searching for food obviously more urgent than attending lectures. Despite these restrictive conditions, Makerere University students were deeply inquisitive, with the boundaries of learning not defined as students in Denmark are familiar with, the desire to learn as much as possible is prevalent, rather than just carrying out the minimum required to pass. For Ugandan students, knowledge is a commodity, and a tool for transformation.

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Now he has returned to Denmark, Ransom intends to share his experiences teaching Ugandan students with his students at Metropol, to reveal how learning can differ across cultures to prepare his students for practicing their expertise beyond the borders of Denmark.

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