Rainfall pattern affecting agricultural productivity in Uganda

Agricultural production that rely on rainfall faces the highest risk compared to that of irrigation.  Rainfall enhances production and productivity in the sector by making crops and vegetation to grow, animals and fish to have enough water for livelihood and flourish. Animals for example depend largely on vegetation while fish and crops production and productivity are largely determined by rainfall availability. According to ministry of agriculture sector strategic plan, the vision for the sector is to ensure a competitive, profitable and sustainable agriculture. However, this goal is highly affected by climate change as farmers continue to struggle due to over reliance on rain fed agriculture.

According to Uganda Meteorologist Authority rainfall forecast for northern Uganda, on average rainfall is always projected to be continuous with June and July expected to always have the highest amount of rainfall received in the entire year.

Between 2016-2017, Lira Metrology Center received a total amount of rainfall of 1278 millimeters which is the highest in Country but below the national average rainfall for the year. This unreliability and ineffectiveness of rainfall in the region greatly affected famers right from the planning time through planting, maintaining, harvesting, storing and marketing of their produce.

Contrary to the forecast in the region of high rainfall for the month of June and July that used to be the second planting seasons for many farmers, there was no rain and many farmers rush to base on the forecast and reports issued by Weather forecast team, the result is that many farmers had planted their seeds and due to the nature of crops planted by many farmers in the northern for example beans, cassava, peas, maize, sunflower and soya beans do not survive on prolonged dry spell period.

The likely impact is lack of water for the crops, shortage of pasture for the animals, increased incidence of livestock and crop pest and disease and the end result is increased food shortage and reduction in famers income.

In order to mitigate this trend, the government should ensure access to water reservoirs and irrigation practices to both subsistence and commercial famers in Uganda but this effort is compromised due to land fragmentation and disorganization among the farmers themselves.

In order to respond to this challenge, ministry of agriculture strategic sector plan sets am ambitious targets of increase water for the agricultural production, purchasing equipment to increase water coverage, recruiting and training of operators, assessing, designing and constructing 250 valley tanks and dams, training of famers on how to harvest water for irrigation with a budget of only 387.85 billion.

In this analysis, national budget 2018/2019 priority on increasing production and productivity according to the framework does not consider what ministry of agriculture takes to be priority number one.

The national budget framework aims at ensuring inter and intra sectoral coordination and synergies between research, supply of inputs and extension of services as well as agro-processing and value addition of out put making the famers not to have any priority as far as planning and budgeting is concerned.

According to Olawale. E & Kow. I, (2016), famers who are unable to adapt to the changing climate may find alternative source of livelihood or remain impoverish for life.

Therefore, majority of northern Uganda risk bearing the consequences of this un predictable pattern of rainfall and most likely to be impoverished Incase no alternative sources of livelihood targeting majorly famers are not found because agriculture still remains the major source of livelihood for the region and Uganda at large.

Image courtesy of  Water Journalist Africa

Compiled by Amuku Isaac 2018

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Menstrual cups as an Innovative Menstrual Health Management (MHM) Solution

In sub-Saharan Africa, many girls and women do not have access to appropriate menstrual health management methods that are effective comfortable, and safe to use. As a result, girls and women resort to using low-quality methods including strips of cloth, tissue paper, school exercise books, pieces of sponge torn from the mattress, backcloth, and others. (Acharya et al.2006; APHRC, 2010 Khan et al, 2005; Mason t al 2013; Tellier et al 2012)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have an indirect reference to Menstrual Health Management (MHM) under the water/ sanitation and education goals. It is also related to the other SDGs of gender equality, environment, and health.

0n 28th June 2018 a diverse group across relevant sectors including the Government of Uganda, academic institutions, community-based organizations, NGOs, and the commercial sector were invited for a Menstrual cup dissemination meeting by WoMena Uganda. The purpose of the meeting was to share research updates about MHM and experiences about the implementation of menstrual cups as an innovative solution in East Africa.

 Managing menstruation is still a global issue especially in Africa where 1 in 5 girls drop out of school because of failure to manage menstruation.

The menstrual cup is safe to use inside the body because it is made from medical grade silicone. The cup can be used for up to 10 years and holds 2-3 times as much blood as most other menstrual products. Once full, the cup is removed, emptied, and re-inserted. The cups require less water and soap than other reusable methods. However, they require boiling between periods to disinfect the cup. They are sold at an estimate of 5-15 USD and therefore become more economical than disposable products after a few months.

During the dissemination meeting, findings from a study on school Girls’ use of reusable menstrual cups in the Gulu District were shared. The study involved girls between 13-17 years which comprised of P5-P7 pupils. Some of the challenges registered were; fearing the unknown and mastering the technique, adapting and adhering to hygiene guidelines, and fear of losing the cups. The greatest concern, however, was the acceptability of this method especially by parents in line with the virginity of their daughters. Need therefore arises in the training of the technique, knowledge sharing to get family and peer support to create trust.

In Kenya, the outcome indicators were school attendance and infections. Very few infections were registered in comparison with those that used reusable sanitary towels and other methods. Contamination of cups was higher among new users but as they go on to use the cups the contamination levels reduce. A challenge was registered with the latrines in schools which makes it difficult for the girls to use the cups for example broken doors, very big pit holes, very tiny rooms and sometimes the girls may drop the cups.

Ms. Catherine Kansiime from Medical Research Council presented MENISCUS-2 Effective implementation Models to Improve Menstrual Health in Secondary schools in Peri-Urban districts. According to this research, Poverty is the major barrier to proper management of Menstrual Health in Secondary schools in Uganda. They came up with a 5-point Intervention; Improving school Water and Sanitation for Health (WASH) facilities, Supply analgesics, Menstrual Management Kit, Puberty Education, and Drama kit. National Council is still in the process of approving the cups however, they encouraged menstrual cup awareness. According to the menstrual cup Adult Pilot, the cup has been found to be healthy, hygienic, appropriate, and cost-effective. The Menstrual cup has been tested in Humanitarian environments and is preferred to the reusable towels and other means due to lack of soap, water, and even privacy.

Participants gave recommendations that will promote the menstrual cup as an innovative MHM solution. They emphasized the need to involve religious and cultural leaders as trusted people in the community who can play a part in making the menstrual cup acceptable in communities. The issue of women and girls with a disability was also raised; they need to be put into consideration whenever such methods are introduced.  The issue of Existing laws and policies was raised in line with their support to this solution and what can be done to enable sustainability.

The use of ICTs and social media platforms was recommended because it plays a key role in catalyzing development. The participants suggested that it is crucial to use the different ICTs and social media platforms as a tool to create awareness and make the menstrual cup popular to Ugandans just like the re-usable pads and other methods have done. The Guest of honor Dr. Mihayo Placid from the Ministry of Health Uganda raised the issue of research. He recommended the need to do more research on the menstrual cup and disseminate results widely. It was noted that documenting and packaging of information on work done will take forward the menstrual cup solution.

The meeting ended with a teamwork activity to develop the next steps for Menstrual cups in Uganda which involved way forward to the recommendations and issues raised from concluded research and participants' input.

Compiled by Patricia Nyasuna,

Programs Assistant- Gender & ICT Policy Advocacy

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Restrictions to freedom of expression online: Joint oral statement at the Human Rights Council 38th session

APC, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa, Derechos Digitales and the Women of Uganda Network

Oral statement delivered under Item 3: General Debate

UN Human Rights Council 38th Session

25 June 2018

Thank you, Mr. President.

This statement is delivered on behalf of the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Derechos Digitales, and the Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET).

As organisations committed to maintaining the use of the internet for human rights, social justice and sustainable development, we are concerned about the increase in threats to freedom of expression online. Attacks on freedom of expression online are taking many forms, including internet shutdowns, regressive cybercrime laws, and privatisation of censorship, among others.

We wish to highlight for the attention of the Council the following situations of concern:

In Uganda, the government adopted a “social media tax” in May, which will require users of over-the-top (OTT) services, including messaging and voice calls via WhatsApp, Facebook, Skype and Viber. to pay a mandatory fee of USD 0.05 per day of use. In a context in which social media has served as many users’ initial entry point to the internet, this tax could negatively impact the affordability and broader use of the internet, particularly by low-income Ugandans, as well as stifle freedom of expression, association and assembly online. Similarly, the recent introduction of stringent online content regulations in Tanzania, Uganda and the Democratic of Republic of Congo threaten citizens’ rights to privacy and freedom of expression and promote self-censorship.

In Latin America, we observe a trend by governments in the region to regulate online expression that is critical of dominant political forces or that amplifies dissident voices of traditionally discriminated groups, under the guise of "online hate speech" or "cybersecurity”. Examples can be found in Brazil, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay and Venezuela, among others. In some cases, legislative reforms have been introduced just before the start of electoral processes or the rise of social movements; in others, restrictive measures are administratively established, bypassing democratic legislative processes entirely. We also observe efforts in the region to criminalise expression and to require private companies to moderate online content, an issue addressed in detail by the recent report of the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. This implies an undermining of due process, as required by international human rights standards, by delegating the function of the judiciary to the private sector. At the same time, it incentivises companies to err on the side of caution and take down content to avoid facing high fines or, in the case of Venezuela, the threat of revocation of authorisation to operate.

We urge the Council with its bi-annual resolution on the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet to condemn and call for the end to such restrictions on online expression, and to adopt human rights-based approaches to internet access and regulation.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The original source of this content is from Association for Progressive Communications (APC).Link

https://www.apc.org/en/pubs/restrictions-freedom-expression-online-joint-oral-statement-human-rights-council-38th-session

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WOUGNET at the 2018 RightsCon, Toronto

The recently concluded RightsCon held in Toronto, Canada as a platform that values respect, diversity, and inclusion in the digital age was a remarkable event that saw wonderful discussions and insights into the current contemporary challenges facing the globe ranging from free expression to online rights, cybersecurity, women and gender, and ICT Policies and perspectives among others.

The Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) alongside the Research ICT Africa Network based in South Africa organized a session that aimed at exploring key issues and constraints facing marginalized women; often invisible groups rarely talked about and catered for. These groups include the rural women, the refugee women, young girls, and the LGBQIT communities among others. The session also aimed at interrogating such constraints encountered by the so-called invisible women with policies and measures informed by evidenced-based research in the global South.

The session was moderated by WOUGNET Program Head, Moses Owiny (@mosesowiny) alongside experts from the APCWorld WideWeb FoundationEqual Measures 2030Research ICT Africa, and ISOC Uganda Chapter. Participants interrogated issues of gender digital divide across different heterogeneous groups of invisible women including rural women, refugee women, young women, and LGBQIT communities. Policy recommendations and the call for wider and multi-stakeholder partnership in addressing concerns around the gender digital divide was considered instrumental in closing the gender digital gap

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Tech-related violence against women in Uganda

Recently, a team of researchers, myself included made a journey to Kayunga town located in Kayunga district, central Uganda among other select sample sites. The purpose for our visit was to investigate the extent of tech-related violence among select groups who participated in our focus group discussions (FGDs) which are a major part of research funded under a small research grant scheme by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) on a project titled: “Investigating tech-related violence against women in peri-urban areas of Uganda.” The major objective of the research is to understand the extent and magnitude of tech-related violence against women and to identify support mechanisms for redress and justice. 

A report published by APC titled “End violence: women’s rights and safety online”, points out that technology-related violence includes acts or behaviors that cause harm or suffering, both mental and physical, and that this is increasingly becoming part of women’s experience of violence as well as part of their online interactions. The report further points out that Technology related violence is a form of gender-based violence and although not often highlighted as such, falls within the description of violence against women as defined by the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of violence against women (DEVAW)

According to the center for research and education on violence against women and children in Canada, technology is used to perpetrate other forms of violence including; sexual harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence to name a few. Technology-related violence takes different forms and like most forms of gender-based violence, it mostly affects women and is mostly perpetrated by men. 

On a closer look at the situation at home, Uganda has no clear statistics on online GBV, however, what we have observed over a period of time and more recently as we carry out research on tech-related violence and particularly Gender-Based Violence (GBV) online is that - it is on the rise and most victims and perpetrators are not aware that it is a form of violence. In fact, in most of the communities we have visited besides Kayunga, we have found that most perpetrators are not aware that they are perpetrating and the truth is the same for victims of online GBV – who do not know that they are victims. 

In what was also in part awareness-raising sessions, we shared in our FGDs what may consist of online/ tech-related violence, some of these included; cyber stalking, bullying, sexual harassment, trolling, threats to one’s life, revenge pornography and etc. The general reaction to these revelations was mainly on whether there is a law that can protect victims experiencing any of the named online crimes. 

Existing laws, policies, and initiatives to end GBV like the National policy on eliminating GBV in Uganda, do not clearly bring out tech-related violence as a serious form of GBV. They do not highlight the potential for online violence or tech-related violence to limit and undermine the enjoyment of one’s online and offline rights including; freedom of association, the right to safe environments, freedom of expression which consists of a contribution to content development and relevant online discussion, among other human rights. 

While laws like the Data protection and privacy Bill, Anti-pornography Act, Computer misuse Act, and Penal Code Act are designed to protect the rights of citizens like all laws, they are generic and yet limiting in terms of scope of environment/ forums that citizens may choose to exercise their freedoms; who they intend to protect and the extent some of these rights should be protected. They also do not have room or provisions for unmentioned or yet to be known human rights violations in line with the rights that they are meant to protect. In fact, for those that are designed to protect the right to access to information, protection of data and privacy, freedom of expression, and any other rights aligned to the afore-mentioned, there is clearly a gap in terms of provisions that are gender-specific, sensitive and that are specific to protecting other vulnerable groups like children and the elderly. In line with online GBV, there are no clear provisions on what it consists of and how perpetrators may be punished. Furthermore, on whether existing provisions apply to crimes that may arise during the tenure or the period before the due date for revision or review of a given law, policy, action plan, strategy or initiative.

Regional Human Rights initiatives like the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa (also the Banjul declaration, 2002) and the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (specifically Application of Principles on Marginalized groups and groups at risk; and Gender equality) have not yet been as widely endorsed or even adopted by most governments on the continent, Uganda included. If adopted and or localized, such initiatives could save governments enormous costs that would result from complications brought about by crimes like online gender-based violence in the future. 

There is clearly a need to take advantage of the internet and to exploit the opportunities it presents but also to guard against its potential to be used as a platform that can limit, deny and demean the rights of others. A strong recommendation to consider as we strive to abolish gender-based violence and accomplish the attainment of online safety to protect the right to freedom of expression among other rights can start with extensive consultation and development of legal guides or frameworks that cater for all eventualities and that are specific to addressing the needs of those that are more likely to be targets of online gender-based violence or tech-related violence among other online crimes that violate one’s human rights. 

Article by Susan H. Atim 

t: @wougnet/ @hatimsusan 

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