Shea Value Chain: Fueling women empowerment in Uganda’s digital economy

An e-poster with details of the power-packed webinar which unleashed research-based details on women's potential in the digital economy concerning the shea value chain in Uganda. E-POSTER/Courtesy.
An e-poster with details of the power-packed webinar which unleashed research-based details on women's potential in the digital economy concerning the shea value chain in Uganda. E-POSTER/Courtesy.
  • Women face numerous obstacles within the shea value chain, including limited access to finance, markets, and information.
  • A majority of women in the chain access the market through go-betweens or intermediaries. 
  • The groundbreaking partnership signifies a pivotal moment in Uganda’s digital and economic landscape.

In the heart of Uganda, a quiet revolution is taking place, one that is reshaping the country’s digital landscape and holding a promise of transforming the lives of thousands of women.

At the forefront of this movement, the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) and Nyowe Ventures have forged a groundbreaking partnership set to empower 100,000 women economically. 

This dynamic collaboration aims to unleash the true potential of women in the Shea Value Chain, a vital sector within Uganda’s economy.

The value chain involves the growing, value-adding, and supplying of shea butter, obtained from shea nuts, the seeds of the shea tree indigenous to many parts of Africa. 

The partnership further serves as a gateway to the recently held webinar that unveiled a comprehensive baseline survey on the shea value chain in Northern Uganda. 

Through this survey, you gain deep insights into the intricacies of the shea industry and the transformative role digital solutions can play in unlocking its vast potential. 

These women face numerous obstacles within the shea value chain, including limited access to finance, markets, and information. 

However, armed with the power of technology and determination, a breath of better days is on the horizon. 

In this transformation lies digital innovation, empowering women to seize new opportunities, secure fair prices for their products, and unlock pathways for sustainable livelihoods.

Sweden’s digital empowerment for Uganda’s women

The webinar kicked off with an enlightening presentation by Maria Löfstrand, a seasoned Development Analyst and Program Officer for Economic Growth and Employment at Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)

She shed light on Sweden’s pivotal role as Uganda’s biggest donor and supporter. 

Maria Löfstrand, Development Analyst and Program Officer for Economic Growth and Employment, SIDA. PHOTO/Courtesy.

“We live in a world where women are still expected to fulfill gender roles, are paid less than men and face huge challenges,” she shares. 

However, Sweden stands at the forefront of the global movement for gender equality, actively striving to shape a society where opportunities are truly equal for all.

Ms. Löfstrand passionately emphasized that digital empowerment lies at the crux of this transformative journey. 

By harnessing the power of technology, gender-sensitive solutions can be implemented, leading to the necessary changes for sustainable growth and resource allocation. 

Sweden’s commitment to digital empowerment goes beyond mere rhetoric. 

By leveraging technological advancements, they have actively championed initiatives that bridge the digital gender divide, allowing women to access information, markets, and financial services.

A hand can’t clap alone

Irene Sewankambo is the Executive Director of the Uganda Communication Commission. 

With her impassioned call for women empowerment through ICT, she emphasized that women are a crucial group that must be prioritized, equipped with ICT skills, and provided with purposeful opportunities to empower themselves. 

Ms. Sewankambo urged women to view ICT as more than just a casual conversation and socializing tool. 

Instead, she encouraged them to harness its immense potential to drive their empowerment.

Irene Sewankambo, Executive Director, Uganda Communication Commission. PHOTO/Courtesy.

“We have historically seen the impact when you empower the women, we saw village phone project, the payphone project, and I know when it’s extended across, more households and empowering women in the transformations will be evident,” she highlighted. 

The transformative ripple effect that occurs when women are given the resources and tools to thrive resonates beyond individual households, fostering widespread societal transformations. 

Ms. Sewankambo reminded the participants that empowerment is not a solitary endeavor but a collective responsibility. 

“A hand cannot clap alone,” she asserted. 

She implored public and private organizations and the government to join forces and actively contribute to the transformative journey, recognizing that only through collaboration can lasting change be achieved.

Survey results, women’s perspectives

The webinar continued to captivate the audience with a video presentation providing a glimpse into women’s lives in the shea value chain. 

Among the featured individuals was Akot Grace, the Coordinator of the Agago District Farmers Association. 

With pride, she shared that their association comprised an impressive 9,138 farmers. 

Recognizing the importance of quality control, consistency, and quality management, they have benefitted from the organization.

Following the video, Dr. Joyce Tamale, CEO and Co-founder of Capital Solutions Limited, took the audience through the survey results. 

This comprehensive survey collected data from 36 districts, with 377 respondents, 76% of whom were women. 

Dr. Joyce Tamale, CEO and Co-founder, Capital Solutions. PHOTO/Courtesy.

The survey delved into critical factors such as land ownership, tree ownership, and male involvement within the shea value chain. The survey shed light on the complex dynamics of land ownership in Northern Uganda. 

A significant finding revealed that 74% of respondents indicated that land in the region is primarily owned as customary land. 

Furthermore, women emerged as the largest group of landowners, primarily due to their marital status. 

These figures highlight women’s vital role in shea nut production and their direct connection to the land.

Gender-based violence (GBV) was also addressed in the survey.

Disturbingly, the findings pointed to a rampant prevalence of GBV, attributed to issues such as limited education and high unemployment rates among women. 

A screengrab of the presentation slide on GBV within the surveyed areas. SCREENGRAB/Courtesy.

The survey served as a stark reminder of the urgent need for interventions to address these societal challenges and ensure safety and well-being within the shea value chain. 

The survey’s examination of digitization painted a nuanced picture. 

While 465 respondents owned basic phones, showcasing a level of mobile phone ownership, the survey revealed low exposure to digital skills, with 67% reporting a lack of such skills. 

This highlights the importance of targeted initiatives to enhance digital literacy among women, equipping them with the necessary tools to harness the full potential of digital solutions. 

Concerning market accessibility, the survey uncovered an interesting trend. 

A majority of women accessed the market through go-betweens or intermediaries. 

A summary of the research phases involved. SCREENSHOT/Courtesy.

However, a female respondent from Alebtong shared, “I directly sell in the market to buyers. You can get them even before you reach the market since they are available.”

Dr. Tamale recommends that there is a need to recognize, plan, and have the utmost interest in the shea nut value chain and uphold and strengthen the existing bylaws. 

Additionally, the WEE implementers are urged to align strategies with realistic field experiences like social cultures, setup, and the predominant patriarchal system. 

To the government, she urges deliberate streamlining of value chains at the ministry level, educating the villages about cooperatives and the parish development model, and developing roads in different sub-counties.

Promising initiatives

The webinar reached its climactic moments with impactful presentations from industry leaders to empowering women in Uganda’s shea value chain. 

Richard Yego, the Managing Director of MTN Mobile Money Uganda, shared their commitment to facilitating women’s access to essential resources. 

Yego highlighted their efforts to enable women to own phones through installment plans, providing them with the necessary tools to conduct their business effectively. 

Richard Yego, Managing Director, MTN Mobile Money Uganda. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Additionally, MTN Mobile Money Uganda supports women in tracking their sales, accessing credit, and benefiting from 4G connectivity, unleashing new possibilities for their economic empowerment.

Maxima Nsimenta, the CEO and Founder of Nyowe Ventures, which runs Livara Natural Organics, took the virtual stage to introduce their digital platform, which will streamline the process of accessing credit for women. 

Nyowe Ventures recognizes the importance of addressing the root causes of gender-based violence(GBV) and actively works with men to create a more inclusive and equitable environment. 

Maxima Nsimenta, CEO and Founder of Nyowe Ventures, holds some of her Livara products. PHOTO/Courtesy.

“It’s important to achieve the promise we give them,” Nsimenta emphasized.

Barbara Alupo, a Gender Specialist from United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), passionately advocated for women’s rights, especially those in low-income households. 

She amplified the vices and addressed unique needs underscoring the importance of creating inclusive solutions.

Barbara Alupo, Gender Specialist, UNCDF. PHOTO/Courtesy.

Partnership launch

Chris Lukalyo, the Digital Country Lead at UNCDF, took the stage to mark the official launch of the partnership between UNCDF and Nyowe Ventures—a moment of great significance in the journey toward women’s economic empowerment. 

Lukalyo expressed his confidence in Nyowe Ventures’ ability to propel this partnership forward, underscoring the immense potential for a positive impact on women’s lives in the shea value chain. 

Chris Lukalyo, the Digital Country Lead at UNCDF. PHOTO/Courtesy.

This partnership is not only a win for Nyowe Ventures but a resounding victory for all stakeholders committed to fostering an environment where women can thrive and fulfill their aspirations. 

The launch of this groundbreaking partnership signifies a pivotal moment in Uganda’s digital and economic landscape.

Together, such spaces can create a world where women thrive, their voices are amplified, and their contributions are celebrated. 

The shea value chain in Uganda stands as a testament to the digital transformation ahead. 

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Imagine the innovation, creativity, and boundless contributions that wait for us if we unleash the full potential of women in the digital economy!

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Ms. Karangah is a content creator, with a passion for stories around health, lifestyle, poetry, and education, among others. She believes that stories have a profound way of connecting us to each other and they help us understand the people around us, to build empathy and create change. Her contact:


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