Empowering Women Through Skills Development: Martha Kisaka's Story

05.03.2021
Lifelong skills development for women has positive outcomes on women’s income and employability.

Martha Kisaka, 25 years old, easily stands out among the half a dozen male passion fruit farmers at the collection center in Bukhonzo village in Manafwa district, Eastern Uganda. The passion fruit collection center in Butiru town council is one of several where passion fruit growers sell their produce to a designated trader. Most of the passion fruit farmers at this collection center like Martha are beneficiaries of Swisscontact’s Local Skills Development for Youth (LSDY) project.

Being one of several enterprises supported by the project within the agribusiness sector, passion fruit farming has become a main source of income among youth in Eastern Uganda. Through its project partners, the project facilitated access to technical skills training, extension, inputs and market for 365 youth (138 female) who produced 476 tons of passion fruit worth UGX 1.43 million (CHF 397,041) in 2020.

Skills development: a precursor for women empowerment

Swisscontact has implemented the LSDY project during 2017-2020 in Eastern Uganda targeting 4,000 unemployed youth and young entrepreneurs (aged 18-30 years) with technical and entrepreneurial skills to increase their employability and entrepreneurship prospects in the agribusiness, construction and hospitality sector.

According to UN Women, lifelong skills development for women has positive outcomes on women’s income and employability.

 

Martha is one of 1,854 women who have been empowered through the LSDY project. In 2019, Martha was encouraged to join Buhkama Arise and Shine Youth Group. 

At the time none of the other youth in the group were growing passion fruit.

Martha Kisaka, 25 years old is a passion fruit farmer from Bukhonzo village in Manafwa district, Eastern Uganda

In her village, the project partnered with BECOFA, a private agribusiness company, to support passion fruit growers. The newly formed group was trained, and received seed and input loans. In addition to technical training in good agronomic practice, Martha acquired skill in entrepreneurship and business management, life skills, and leadership skills. Martha says she found the skills helpful. 

We were given all the necessary support to start growing passion fruit. This training was mostly practical through demonstration, so learning was enjoyable and easy”.

 

Although Martha was new to passion fruit growing, it proved to be an ideal high value enterprise. 

Other women ask me why I do not grow beans, maize or groundnuts. I was not gaining anything, but now passion fruit is important”. 

 

After 9 months, Martha began to harvest 8-12 Kilograms of passion fruit a week. In the first season alone, Martha harvested and sold passion fruit worth UGX 720,000 (CHF 178). Nowadays Martha says that she can afford to buy a full meal. 

From the sales I make I am able to buy all the food I need and have some money left. If I sell a kilogram of passion fruit, my family gets to eat a full meal

 

For women in Uganda like Martha, owning land is not easy due to socio-cultural restrictions. One of the main advantages of passion fruit over traditional crops is that it does not require large tracts of land to grow. Owing to this and its high market price, it is a viable enterprise for empowering women and a potential pathway for leading rural youth like Martha out of poverty.

Martha (Right) with her father Julius Muyobo, 52 years old. Julius who has picked interest from his daughter has planted a garden of passion fruit with hopes of earning an income from it. 

Martha’s still hopes of completing nursing school and opening up her own drug shop one day. 

 

I know the money I need to complete nursing school will come from passion fruit

 

The LSDY project is financed by Green Leaves Education Foundation, Happel Foundation, City of Zurich, Canton Basel-Stadt and private donations, and is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is co-finaced by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).