Horticulture in Uganda
Uganda grows a variety of organic flowers, fruit and vegetables, which are fed into domestic, regional and international markets. The flower industry is the seventh biggest export sector in Uganda, and contributed 38,70 million US dollars to Uganda’s GDP. The sector is organized under Uganda Horticultural Industrial Service Providers and Allied Workers Union (UHISPAWU) and Uganda Flowers Exporters Association (UFEA). However, workers and producers in the fruit and vegetable chains are not sufficiently organized. UFEA represents the interests of flower exporters in Uganda.
Laws, policies and government
The legal framework in Uganda for the promotion of labor rights is fairly well developed. The Constitution of Uganda has protective provisions relating to fair remuneration of workers, protection from unsafe working conditions and freedom of association. For example, the Employment Act of 2006 prescribes workplace (more than 25 employees) policies against sexual harassment. The implementation of these provisions remains elusive though. As per the 2016 Hivos Baseline Survey, only few horticultural farms were found to have workplace policies on gender, sexual harassment /domestic violence.
A unique feature in Uganda is the existence of up to five Members of Parliament nominated to represent the interest of the trade union and workers which strategically positions Ugandan workers to address workers issues through policy dialogue and advocacy. This also provides Hivos and partners the opportunity of working more closely with the MPs as an extension of the workers representation infrastructure, as well as monitoring their performance and ensuring that their agenda in Parliament is aligned to workers’ aspirations and needs.
Challenges for workers
Although Uganda has a minimum wage, this was set in 1984; and the new Minimum Wage Bill that has been adopted by Parliament, has not been signed into law by the President. Workers in the horticulture earn low wages, raging around 25-50 US dollars per month. Although a living wage benchmark is currently underway, it is safe to say that the current wages are below a living wage.
Sexual harassment remains a challenge in the flower farms, though rarely reported. Moreover, many growers do not have effective anti-sexual harassment policies and structures in the workplace. Where policies have been developed, they are often not instituted.
Furthermore, women’s labor is mainly concentrated in the low paying, unskilled jobs: weeding, harvesting, sorting, packing and labelling flowers, fruits and vegetables. Men largely occupy managerial and supervisory positions. In the case of family-owned businesses, few women operate as big entrepreneurs owning large pieces of land or processing facilities for fruits and vegetables. The majority face entry barriers such as lack of finance or credit, equipment and education, to participate in the higher stages of the value chains.
In Uganda, the Women@Work Campaign works together with:
- Akina Mama wa Afrika (AMwA)
- National Organisation of Peer Educators Uganda (NOPE)
- Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Uganda)
- Uganda Flowers Exporters Association (UFEA)
- Uganda Horticultural Industrial Services Provider and Allied Workers Union (UHISPAWU)
- Uganda Workers Education Association (UWEA)
AMwA, together with UHISPAW and UWEA, has rolled out a women leadership project in Uganda to build capacities of women workers to aspire for leadership, bring about gender consciousness amongst management staff of horticulture farms and to develop a gender equality model policy for the sector to engage in for them to adapt and adopt.
NOPE, UFEA and UHISPAWU are working together under the Blooming Workplaces and Schools Project, twinning flower farms with schools to address sexual harassment and prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among workers and students.
FIDA-Uganda is implementing the project ‘Enhancing Access to Justice and Legal Framework Protecting Women Workers in the Horticulture Sector’. The project is aimed at promoting decent work for women through improving access to justice for workers whose rights have been violated and strengthening the policy framework protecting workers. The program approach involves the use of evidence-based advocacy and empowerment of workers to champion their rights and negotiate for better working conditions.
- In 2017/2018 under the Blooming Workplaces and Schools Project a workplace model sexual harassment policy has been adopted and a workplace steering committees set up in seven of thirteen flower farms. UFEA has since the adoption commenced negotiations for implementation of the said policies by signing collective bargaining agreements (CBA). In total, 11 schools have been connected to 8 farms.
- AMwA has developed a Women Leadership Curriculum and a mentorship guide, which has been used not only in Uganda but also in Kenya and Rwanda.
- UWEA has proposed changes to the Employment Act, to expand the scope of workers protected against sexual harassment at the workplace under this Act.