In one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world, agriculture employs 82% of the workforce, yet contributes only 26% to the GDP. Could merging entrepreneurship and legal advice with farming be the solution to this Ugandan economic asymmetry?
Based in the Ugandan capital Kampala, Lawyers 4 Farmers (L4F) is a HiiL backed legal initiative that aims to spread awareness of basic legal knowledge and entrepreneurial skills to the farming population. Hellen Mukasa, co-founder of L4F , explains that “The main objective of L4F is to enable farmers to navigate the complexities of the law and make practical changes in the way that they start, structure and manage their farm businesses for increased productivity and profitability.” With the knowledge acquired from HiiL’s data that 88% of Ugandans faced legal problems that were severe and difficult to resolve over a four year period, transferring legal system knowledge, combined with insights on entrepreneurship, to the agriculture sector is a fruitful venture.
Despite the entrepreneurial spirit which defines contemporary Uganda, farmers remain overwhelmingly excluded from the money economy, with 40% of rural farmers living below the poverty line. Hellen highlights this imbalance, explaining that “If farmers embrace entrepreneurship, they can learn skills which in turn enable them to increase productivity, eliminate the middlemen and deal directly with end users leading to increased profitability . Exports would grow and unemployment levels would reduce as jobless Ugandans would go back to farming.”
So how does L4F work?
The SMS based platform provides educative, basic legal advice to farmers in their local language, and offers instant guidance on legal problems. Everything is translated and interactions are conducted in the local language. So far, there has been a positive start for L4F, with Hellen describing success stories of farmers who did not know they could acquire land titles for their land, and did so through the L4F platform. Progress is evident even with farmers sending inquiries through the platform, as Hellen says that from the baseline survey, “even talking to a lawyer was intimidating for farmers”. Therefore, bridging law and agricultural is already off to a promising start.
What are the main legal problems faced by Ugandan lawyers?
Hellen outlines three main problems; the first two are land wrangles and succession issues, where disputes occur over land ownership and laws of inheritance, the latter centering on laws affecting land ownership of women, which has been adopted by official law yet slow for communities to accept. The final legal problem identified is domestic violence. The majority of Ugandan agricultural workers are female, and domestic violence is a major issue after the harvest season, when earned money becomes a point of contention in the household.
Gender is a major propeller of L4F’s work. Hellen, as one of the leaders of the all-female team, explains that “76.9% of our [L4F] beneficiaries are female. 2 of the 3 legal problems identified revolve around the female farmer and therefore the content we develop and activities we plan are mostly centered around protecting the female farmer”. By merging law and entrepreneurship with farming, a myriad of issues will hopefully be addressed, and L4F is off to a promising start already.