All posts in photo essays

In the Shadow of the Mahabura

In the shadow of the Mahabura volcano lies Kisoro, Uganda. A village on the border of Rwanda and The Congo. The communities here live off well-manicured mountains, cultivating beans, sweet potatoes, and sorghum. It is one of the most fertile areas of Uganda because of the minerals from the volcanic soil. However, in recent years, unpredictable weather events and inconsistent rainfall have hurt harvests in the area.

When I was there in September 2009 the rain was just beginning to fall in Kisoro. In past years by September, the rainy season would have been in full swing. In order to adapt to the changing seasonal calendar, the women, who bear the brunt of this work, have had to work longer and harder to control the outcome of the harvests.

According to the 2009 UNFPA State of World Population report:

Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes. Girls drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks. This cycle of deprivation, poverty and inequality undermines the social capital needed to deal effectively with climate change.

While walking through the well-manicured hillsides of Kisoro, you only find women and children working the fields. It is rare to find a man.

Stella was born and raised in a subcounty not far from Kisoro. She, like many women, is hired to cultivate other people’s land. She is 60 and has 3 children, most of them going to school. On the day I met Stella she and her daughter had been working in a small garden since daybreak. Even though she also has her own small family plot, most days she works on other’s fields to make a living. She says this is the only way she can earn money to support her family. On a good day, she can make between 3,000 and 4,000 Ugandan Shillings (equivalent to $1.50-2.00).

Stella says she would rather work independently than work in a collective. Working in a collective is another option for women to earn money working the fields. Landowners who have larger plots will hire a group of 20-40 women to till, prepare and plant their land. These women do not get paid daily or weekly but at the end of the planting season. Usually, these women get paid a slightly higher wage than those who work independently. But sometimes they don’t get paid at all.