"I advise fellow farmers on the legal processes in place for equal land rights and peaceful land redistribution.” —Talking Book user feedback from a woman in Moyo District
An FAO/Amplio Talking Book Pilot Project
Securing women's land rights is vital to rural Uganda, helping combat extreme poverty and enhance quality of life. A staggering 37.5% of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day, placing smallholder farmers among the world's poorest. This hardship is even more pronounced for women, who bear the brunt of systemic gender inequality.
Uganda has taken steps towards gender equality through laws and policies like the Land Act (1998), the National Land Policy (2013), and the 2022 Succession Act. However, the implementation of these reforms has been dishearteningly poor. Women face many barriers to realizing their land rights, including deeply ingrained social and cultural practices, limited access to justice, and a lack of awareness of their rights. Poor infrastructure, illiteracy, locally spoken languages, and lack of connectivity create additional challenges to knowledge sharing and program delivery.
In 2022, Amplio, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), embarked on a mission to bridge the gap in land rights knowledge and gender equality awareness in Uganda's West Nile sub-region. The region, with a population of three million, is marked by its agricultural reliance and a growing refugee crisis, making it a unique setting for this endeavor.
Amplio worked closely with FAO and local experts to design and implement a pilot project the Amplio Talking Book as a social and behavior change communication (SBCC) platform. The pilot was implemented in Moyo and Adjumani districts, with support from the Paul and Cathy Cotton family, and Erin and Jamie Chapple.
Why Women's Land Rights Matter
Land, for rural families, is the bedrock of their livelihoods. It not only supports agricultural production but also ensures food security, nutrition, and a source of income. Studies show that when women have secure land rights, everyone benefits. Children enjoy improved nutrition, while women gain more influence within their households and communities, leading to lower levels of gender-based violence. The impact doesn't stop there. When women are economically empowered, they reinvest in their families, including healthcare and education. [FAO, 2023]
But in many parts of the world, including Uganda, men and women have inadequate access to secure rights over land. Women are particularly disadvantaged in this regard. Traditional customs and practices often favor men, allowing women only limited access to land and imposing restrictions on its use. The complexities of land registration, coupled with limited access to justice, further exacerbate the problem.
These are some of the challenges Amplio and FAO aimed to address.
Project Design: A Hybrid Listening Model
The FAO Uganda Talking Book pilot had three main goals: to increase knowledge and awareness of land rights granted to women, to improve attitudes about women’s land rights and gender equality, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the Talking Book as a gender-responsive approach for community outreach and education.
To reach more people, the team chose a hybrid listening model, with groups and households. Talking Books were distributed to Farmer Field School and Watershed Management groups, as well as other stakeholders. Group members listened to Talking Book messages together during their regular meetings and took turns borrowing the devices to listen to with their families.
The Talking Books fostered discussion and learning on a range of topics including women's land rights, gender norms, access to resources, and shared decision-making. The devices are battery-operated, hold hours of audio content, and allow for listeners to record their feedback. The use of creative message formats such as songs, poetry, dramas, interviews, and testimonies entertained while educating on these important issues. The content was produced in Madi, a locally spoken language.
The project ran from July 2022 to March 2023, giving community members the opportunity to engage with the content.
“The farmer field school groups find the Talking Book very easy to use and the best thing is that the device speaks in their local language.” —Solomon Omodi, District Coordinator
Bringing Change Through Participation
A critical aspect of the project was the development of content that resonated with the community. A local SBCC expert was enlisted to ensure the content was not only informative but also culturally sensitive. The process began with formative research, engaging key stakeholders, including traditional leaders and community development officers, to understand the community's issues, barriers, and concerns.
The result was a participatory approach emphasizing the economic and social benefits of women's land rights. For content design, the messaging strategy highlighted the links between land rights, agriculture, and the benefits to the entire community when women's land rights are upheld.
Throughout the project, Amplio monitored the use of the devices, provided technical support, and collected Talking Book usage statistics and user feedback. Usage data showed which topics and messages were engaged with the most. User feedback offered further insights on community issues and perspectives. Community members also shared their perspectives during town hall meetings and focus groups.
After the first content deployment, the team adjusted the content based on what they heard during town hall meetings, and through Talking Book user feedback. Women expressed their need for information addressing gender-based violence and conflict resolution practices, so additional content was added to meet their requests. The messages also created an opportunity for open dialogue in households.
“My husband and son never wanted to garden with me. With the arrival of the Talking Book, we now work together. We borrowed some money from the group and bought some land together in Adjumani. Land is wealth.” —Gloria Mindra, Moyo District
Effective Gender-Responsive Communication
One of pilot's goals was to evaluate the Talking Books as gender-responsive tool for reaching and informing rural women and communities about issues crucial to their well-being. Overall, the team deemed it a success, and communities agreed. In an endline survey, people reported a very positive experience with the Talking Books, with 96% of respondents agreeing that they would recommend future use of the technology.
The pilot brought together FAO's expertise on gender and social policy, local expertise on the cultural context, and Amplio's expertise on how Talking Books can be used to address complex social and behavior change issues.
"As a team, we delivered an innovative and effective model for using Amplio’s technology to reach rural women and communities, deliver complex education on women's land rights and gender roles, and facilitate learning and discussion," shared Lindsay Dakan, Amplio's product and quality assurance manager.
“We have learned about living in unity with our wives, working together cooperatively in family development and improving on our farming activities. Now our challenges will be drastically reduced in our homes.” —User feedback from multiple male speakers
Measurable Impact and Transformation
Over the project's duration, 400 Talking Books reached over 11,000 community members, leading to a remarkable 30% increase in land rights knowledge and a notable 12% rise in support for gender equality. While social and behavioral change can be challenging to observe in just six months, feedback indicated a heightened role of women in decision-making.
The participatory design approach, which incorporated community voices and perspectives, was instrumental in enhancing the content's relevance. Messages were thoughtfully localized to address the unique realities of Moyo and Adjumani districts.
Usage data showed that groups and households listened to 29 audio messages over 30,000 times, for a total of over 4,500 hours of engagement. User feedback and focus groups, along with observations made by the team and local leaders, highlighted other positive impacts, including more awareness of gender-based violence and where to go for help, as well as new knowledge and practices for climate smart agriculture.
Through this pilot, the immense potential of Talking Books to deliver essential land rights information to rural communities and shape social and gender norms became evident. As Lindsay aptly summarized, "It was a wonderful collaboration to move the needle on the vital issue of women's land rights."