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Can two women fix the world?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 13:52

Can two women on opposite sides of the planet fix the world's broken food system? Probably not! But we can try.

It is now exactly five weeks since I left Uganda to return to Australia full of passion and ideas about how, through sharing knowledge and a bond of friendship, Polly and I can overcome some of the challenges my new friend faces on her farm.

Late on a Wednesday morning in early August, I arrived at Polly’s homestead as part of the Hunger Busting Blogger program together with fellow Australian Hannah Moloney and a support crew fromActionAid Uganda.

We were greeted by an all singing all dancing group of local women farmers, excited by the fact that maybe Hannah and I could change their farming fortunes. In the short time we had, clearly we couldn’t. Besides that, we don’t have all the answers! What we can do, however, is tell the stories of these women, start a dialogue and possibly be a conduit for some of the solutions.

Katakwi is a village in Eastern Uganda, an eight hour pot hole dodging car ride from Uganda’s capital Kampala. Polly’s homestead is a further 20 kilometers from the main centre of Katakwi. It was as she had described it when she visited Australia several weeks earlier, grass thatched houses surrounded by animals; in fact there were five thatched structures of mud and dung walls and thatched rooves, a corral for cattle, a shelter for the goats, a gloriously shady tree, small fields of sorghum, millet, maize and peanuts... but no electricity, running water, tractors or farm implements aside from a plough.

What Polly hadn’t described though, and what was there in spades, was an incredible sense of family and community. I felt acutely right then that this had been missing on Polly’s visit to my farm. Indeed I suspect it would have been difficult to get my friends to line the driveway and chant and dance with the same fervour as these ladies!

Over the following two days we soaked up all we could of Polly, her farm, her family, her community, their problems, their concerns and their culture. And while two days was barely enough even the long bony fingers of technology reach in to Katakwi and Polly is contactable on her mobile phone (charged periodically at a budding entrepreneur’s battery about half an hour away) by text and her sons are but the click of “send” on an email away!

Over the coming months, through Polly perhaps we can understand better the role of women farmers in developing countries and how they can be a part of the solution to the global food crisis.

And while Polly and I may not be able to fix the world’s broken food system we might make a start on fixing the food system in a small part of the district of Katakwi.

Tina McPherson traveled to Tanzania and Uganda with ActionAid in July 2011 as part of the Hunger Busting Blogger training program. Tina maintains full editorial independence and, therefore, all views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily represent those of ActionAid.