TEREGO. The refugees and host communities in Rhino Camp refugee settlement have been empowered by ACAV to produce more food so as to supplement the already reduced food ration provided by the World Food Program.

ACAV, a humanitarian organization operating in the West Nile region has been implementing the “Improving Livelihood and Food Security” project under Livelihoods Sustainability for Refugees and Host Communities program in Rhino Camp.

The two-year project that commenced in 2019 and ended in 2020 focused on the production of NAROBEAN 1&2, NAROCAST and NASE 19 cassava with technical support provided by National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO).

While speaking during the end of the project at Yoro base camp last week, beneficiaries revealed that they usually sell part of the harvest to buy other necessities so as to supplement the food given by WFP.

Ms Suzan Tabu and Mr Michael Duku, both refugees from Ofua zone are some of the beneficiaries of the project.

“On hearing that our food ration was reduced, the farming project brought by ACAV helped me to raise my own food from the garden and when the food provided by WFP gets finished, I normally supplement it with what I have harvested from the field as a family” Duku said.

Meanwhile Tabu stressed that: “When ACAV supplied us the cassava cuttings, I planted them and later harvested the cassava and beans for consumption. I sold some for school fees and clothing. We need more of such projects. Right now, I don’t feel like going back to South Sudan because I enjoy staying here.”

At the inception of the project in 2019, refugees had no land to practice their agriculture especially growing cassava and beans.

This prompted them to fall into agreement with landlords to rent land for an agreed period of time so that they plant their crops.

Duku has since become a supplier of cassava cuttings of NAROCAST and NASE 19 varieties by either giving it free or offering it at a cost to the host communities who initially took the project for granted.

Just like Suzan, Duku also pays school fees for his children, provides a balanced diet at home, buys animals and clothing out of the cassava and beans grown under the ACAV initiative.

But Mr Primo Drapari, another beneficiary said the unreliable rainfall pattern coupled with the sandy soil in Rhino Camp poses challenges to them thus affecting farming in the area.

Drapari said irrigation would be the best solution for them to avert the long term dry spell during the process of farming.

Refugee Welfare Council chairperson for Rhino camp settlement, Mr Martin Wafula attributed the success of the project to the freedom of expression the government of Uganda has given refugees through the office of the Prime Minister and demanded for more such projects in future.

Mr Patrick Bongo Namisi, the head of programs at ACAV noted that ACAV established a demonstration farm for NAROCAST, NASE 19 and NAROABEAN 1&2 where farmers would learn from and get some of the planting materials.

The Cassava demoThe Cassava demonstration farm. PHOTO BY JOSEPH ODAMA

“This intervention has come at a time when COCVID-19 and food ration cuts have impacted so much on the livelihood of refugees and the host communities in the West Nile region. And in a way, the project helps them to navigate through the situation of COVID-19 and food ration cuts by improving on the food security situation,” Mr Bongo said.

The assistant settlement commandant for Rhino camp refugee settlement, Mr Jonathan Matata said the project ACAV has implemented in collaboration with Abizardi (NARO) at Rhino Camp has complemented the efforts of the government in catering for both the refugees and host communities.

Ms Eres Kuteesa who represented National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) during the meeting noted that their involvement in the project as scientists helped them to realize better service delivery to Ugandans and refugees in the agricultural sector.

The two-year project funded by Gerda Henkel Foundation from Germany targeted 450 refugees and host communities, a figure that ACAV surpassed after considering 709 refugees and host communities in Ofua Zone of Rhino Camp refugee settlement as beneficiaries.

 ACAV Mr Patrick BongoHead of programs at ACAV, Mr Patrick Bongo speaking during the end of project evaluation at Yoro base camp on Tuesday this week. PHOTO BY JOSEPH ODAMA