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Floriculture and horticulture in Uganda

Uganda grows a variety of organic flowers, fruit and vegetables, which are fed into domestic, regional and international markets. In 2014, flowers contributed US $38.70 million to Uganda’s GDP (UWEA, 2014). According to interviews conducted with KK Foods, fruits and vegetables contribute 5% of Uganda’s GDP. Since 2012, Government has implemented the Commodity Based Approach (CBA) under which support is channeled to the 12 prioritized commodities, namely: maize, beans, rice, bananas, cassava, cattle, meat, fish, coffee, tea, fruits and vegetables. Although there is a growing decline in the flower industry and increase towards the fruits and vegetable cultivation, the country is unable to meet the growing international demand for fresh fruits and vegetables. In Uganda, the Women@Work Campaign focuses on on cut flowers and vegetables (hot pepper and chilli) value chains. Both the flowers and vegetable sectors employ a significant proportion of women workers.

The flower sector is organized under Uganda Horticultural Industrial Service Providers and Allied workers union (UHISPAWU) and Uganda Floricultural 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.

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. In 2017 / 2018 under the Blooming Workplaces and Schools Project (jointly funded by Hivos and Stop AIDS Now) two project partners: Uganda Flowers Exporters Association (UFEA) and National Organization of Peer Educators (NOPE) Uganda mobilized flower growers for the purpose of addressing sexual harassment and the negative impact of HIV and AIDS in the workplace. 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 adoption commenced negotiations for implementation of the said policies by signing collective bargaining agreements (CBA).

Further, women’s labor is mainly concentrated in the low paying, unskilled jobs: weeding, harvesting, sorting, packing and labelling flowers, fruits and vegetables in Uganda. 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. Akina Mama wa Afrika, a pan Africa women leadership institution and Women@Work partner has rolled out a women leadership project in Uganda – with cross cutting themes in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda – 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 sector to engage in for them to adapt and adopt.

Laws, policies and government

The legal framework in Uganda for the promotion of labor rights is fairly well developed, including the minimum wage. The Constitution of Uganda has protective provisions relating to fair remuneration of workers, protection from unsafe working conditions and freedom of association. The Employment Act of 2006 requires the minimum remuneration to be fixed by a Wages Regulation Order, administered by the Minister for Labor. It also prescribes workplace (more than 25 employees) policies against sexual harassment. The implementation of these provisions remains elusive. As per the 2016 Hivos Baseline Survey only few horticultural farms were found to have workplace policies on gender, sexual harassment /domestic violence.

As a result, poor remuneration of workers applies across the board. Payment for labor depends on the willingness of out-growers to pay their workers, for growing chillies and hot peppers. The pay ranges from 80,000-150,000 Ugandan Shillings (approximately €22-45) per month, in some instances there is no direct cash payment as family labor is utilized. The level of remuneration is similar to flower farms. The low pay is compounded by the fact that minimum wage provisions in Uganda are outdated, with benchmarks being set back in 1984. A Minimum Wage Bill was tabled in Parliament in 2013, but has since not been prioritized. However, fresh discussions are underway between the Government of Uganda, labor unions and the private sector, with the aim of addressing this problem. In 2017 /2018, the Minimum Wage Advisory Board finalized a study on the minimum wage, and the study findings submitted to Parliament for action. Uganda Women Lawyers Association and UHISPAWU, Women@Work partners under the access to justice banner has been pursuing this among other issues.

Important to note, a number of export firms have sustainability certifications, including Millieu Program Sierteelt (MPS) Socially Qualified (SQ)/ETI) and MPS-SQ/ETI and MPS-GAP. Research conducted by UWEA (2011) in the flower industry, showed that farms that enforced international standards had remarkable improvements in social and environmental issues, though serious challenges remain in the auditing of certification standards.

A unique feature in Uganda is 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 role or 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. Other strategic actors in Uganda include close collaborations with the Department of Labor (DoL) inspects workplaces, processes reported cases of labor standards violations in work places and assesses workplaces for compliance with the Safety and Health Standards. The DoL has a women’s rights centred monitoring tool. However, the DoL is constrained by poor resourcing to adequately deliver upon its mandate.

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