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Innovation for a gender equal future

International Women’s Day 2023 is focused on Innovation for a gender equal future.

The most recent snapshot of gender equality across the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ‘No Poverty’ showed that globally 380 million women and girls are in extreme poverty. If current trends continue, in sub-Saharan Africa, more women and girls will live in extreme poverty by 2030 than do today.* We are determined to change this.

In Uganda, we found poverty was focused particularly on women and children, and so when Love Mercy began, we decided to do the same. We worked alongside our team in Uganda to co-design an innovative and sustainable solution to overcome poverty. Instead of sending money for food, we decided to give loans of seeds so that women in the community could provide their own food year after year – and Cents for Seeds was born.

We had a chat with our CEO, Bec Lloyd, about why Love Mercy is focused on empowering women through Cents for Seeds.

This is Alice and her daughter Rachelle, she accompanied her mother right after school to collect her seed loan.

Why does Cents for Seeds focus on women?

In Uganda, women play a major role in sustaining the family unit – being responsible for food, water and health care, and farming the land to ensure food for the family. However, gender disparities are significant, restricting women’s access to resource, and decision-making ability. There is a lack of action in regard to domestic violence, and significant male control over essential resources like households and land, access to education and employment.

All of these elements, both individual and combined, perpetuate the cycle of poverty in women. So, Cents for Seeds sought to address this.

There has also been research to show when a woman is empowered, the community around her are also uplifted. We have seen that happen in our projects over time.

Why specifically agriculture?

It has been said that if farmed to its fullest potential, that the soil in Uganda is fertile enough to feed all of Africa. The soil in the north is rich and an asset to every individual living there. They simply lack the resource. Additionally, women perform most of the agricultural work (79% of the agricultural labour force), but they lack access to land, seeds and again, decision-making power over which enterprises to get involved in or reaping any benefits from their hard work.

Through Cents for Seeds, Women are empowered on a village level, so that the staff of Love Mercy Uganda can best understand how to meet their needs. As well as providing agricultural support in the form of seeds and tools, women are educated about planting practices, best storage practice and selling methods, in order to maximise their yield. Farmers have the potential of food and economic security at their fingertips with agriculture, and Cents for Seeds opens up that opportunity.

What results have we achieved so far?

Since starting Cents for Seeds in 2010, the program has seen close to 25,000 women participate over the years. This is an incredible milestone for the organisation, and more specifically for the staff in Uganda. As a result, wellbeing levels have increased, women have sent children to school, built homes, and paid for healthcare. It truly is creating long term, generational impact.

What does the future hold?

We see a future where northern Uganda is free from poverty, and families are creating their own futures. We would love to expand outside of the north, and even outside of Uganda.

The impact of Cents for Seeds starts with the life-changing opportunities created by a $30 loan of seeds.

We have 1,500 new women ready to join the Cents for Seeds project in a few weeks, but we don’t yet have enough seeds in the storehouse. By giving a seed loan this month, it will go directly to one of these new women, and give her the opportunity to start on the path out of poverty.

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