Liberalisation of agricultural markets, livelihood patterns and gender relations in Central Uganda: The case of Ntenjeru Sub County, Mukono District
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This thesis examines the influence of the policy of liberalisation of agricultural markets on livelihood patterns and gender relations. The thesis adopts the actor/structure theoretical framework in making comparison and analysis of first, the agricultural and non agricultural livelihoods pursued jointly or individually within 60 smallholder farming households in Ntenjeru Sub County, situated in Mukono district in Central Uganda and second, the forms of gender relations experienced before and since implementation of the policy of liberalisation of agricultural markets within these households. The study demonstrates the strengths and limitations of structure and actor approaches in explaining smallholders’ responses to public policy. Rather than relying on one approach as the current neo liberal and Weberian theorists are separately inclined to do, this study justifies the need to combine both approaches by borrowing from the strengths of each approach and improving on the limitations of each approach especially in policy formulation. The policy of liberalisation of agricultural markets produced its anticipated structural changes in form of increased access to markets, increased monetisation of the economy, heightened agricultural production for the market and livelihood diversification. The policy is however not sufficient enough on its own to elicit anticipated responses amongst smallholder farming households. The majority of the smallholder farming households has limited capital and labour resources while more even lack the agency requisite for producing for the market, which is rarely considered by policy makers. Targeted assistance from government and raising consciousness which in turn would raise agency levels amongst the majority of households is still required if smallholder farming households are to respond effectively to the policy of liberalisation of agricultural markets. The policy had blurred the traditional distinction between males’ and females’ crops by transforming all crops, including the traditional females’ crops (food crops), into cash crops, had increased joint working of males and females in agriculture and had influenced a growing positive attitude towards women’s earning of income outside the home. There however is still resistance to women’s earning of income, especially outside the household, which is believed to negatively affect women’s obligations towards their homes, husbands and children. There also still are deep-rooted traditional beliefs in men’s responsibilities for financial provisioning in their households, even amongst women. Inability to meet these obligations earned men a derogatory reference to being mundu y’a waka (merely a household gun). This means that even with improvements in gender relations brought about by the policy of liberalisation of agricultural markets, core aspects of gender relations relating to roles and responsibilities of males and females within households are yet to be dismantled, which in a way reinforces the financially dependant status of women on men. The new structural opportunities associated with the policy were also eroding established patterns of gendered behaviour within households and communities with separation and divorce carrying lesser stigma and women preferring to settle marital conflicts in public institutions compared to the privacy of their own homes or the homes of their parents-in-law, as was the case traditionally. Finally, this study demonstrated the symbiotic relationships between actor and structure theoretical approaches evidenced in the mutual constitutioning of livelihoods and gender relations. Households that exhibited ideologies of common interest (collective actors) responded to the policy of liberalisation of agricultural markets (structure) more successfully compared to households that exhibited ideologies of divided interest wherein males and females acted as individual actors. Gender relations not only therefore affected response to public policy but public policy also had effect on gender relations. Thus, policy makers need to be aware of the mutual constitutioning of livelihoods and gender relations if desired responses to policy are to be elicited from rural smallholder agricultural households.