Gender and Soil Fertility in Uganda: A Comparison of Soil Fertility Indicators for Women and Men’s Agricultural Plots

by Peter Nkedi-Kizza, Jacob Aniku, Kafui Awuma, and Christina H. Gladwin


The removal of subsidy under the structural adjustment programs of the World Bank has increased the cost of fertilizers and lowered the level of fertilizer input use among the small-scale farmers in Uganda and in many African countries.  It is also reported that female farmers lack cash or credit to finance agricultural inputs, as such they apply less fertilizers to their crops than male farmers. In addition there is a perception that female farmers in Africa are allocated less fertile land by their spouses. We conducted this research to determine whether the gender difference in wealth and land allocation between male and female farmers in male-headed households is manifested in soil fertility indicators.  We determined chemical fertility levels (fertility indicators) in the composite topsoil samples from 5 woman-owned plots and 5 man-owned plots in Ntanzi village, Uganda, on a Rhodic Ferralsol.  A similar study was conducted on 8 woman-owned and 8 man-owned plots in Buggala Island, Uganda, on a Ferralic Arenosol.  In total we took topsoil samples from 13 male-headed households, and sampled by horizon 13 soil profiles. No female-headed households (FHHs) were included in this study. Therefore when we use the words “women” or “female” we are referring to married women/females in male-headed households. The FHHs were omitted from this study because they had no consistent comparable “male match” with agricultural plots from which we could take soil samples.

The study showed no statistical significant difference between soil fertility indicators of plots owned by wives vs husbands.  The soil data from wives’ and husbands’ plots had low soil fertility levels of most soil fertility indicators, implying that they had been under comparable poor management practices. On-farm demonstrations of soil nutrient management options are recommended to convince both women and men farmers about the benefits of improved soil fertility technologies.

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Peter Nkedi-Kizza is in the Soil and Water Science Department at the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL. Jacob Aniku is at the Soil Science Department at Makerere University, in Kampala, Uganda. Christina H. Gladwin is with the Department of Food and Resource Economics, also at the University of Florida.