Polly's Story

I am a smallholder farmer from the drought-prone North Eastern Uganda, where I have raised my five children.

My husband left me and my family twenty years ago, but returned with the intent of taking the land that I have worked ceaselessly on away from me. In Uganda, most women have access to land, but they cannot own or control that land. However, when I took the matter to the clan leader, he ruled in my favour, despite the surprise of my community.

My unique experiences have led me to work tirelessly promoting sustainable agriculture and the status of women farmers in Uganda, particularly widows and single women. I’m handling a lot of cases for widows and find that, especially if their case goes to court, they are taken advantage of and their land is grabbed.

I started within my local community, by creating a co-operative for women farmers that pools community resources to build up local food stocks. Through this, many women now own livestock for the first time!

I have also travelled across Africa to ensure that those in power understand the everyday realities that women in my community and my country face when it comes to land rights. The land is where we get our resources from and the income that we use - that’s why it is so important.

I represented rural women in the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme at the African Union. The purpose of this programme was to encourage African governments to invest 10% of their budgets into agriculture, but I pushed for at least 60% of this funding to be directed towards women farmers.

There are no policies which defend us – the women. And then you find that our culture norms say that a woman does not own land. A woman is property who was brought into a clan, so she has no voice within that clan. That’s why they feel really powerless.

For myself, I feel like I’ve had a change, but I want that for all the women. I want them to experience change, to be given control and ownership of land, and to let their voices be heard.

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