WEST NILE. Refugees and host communities in West Nile region are venturing into commercial agriculture to mitigate worsening economic situations in their backyard.
The involvement in economic activities and self-employment is now bridging the gap in the nutritional cycle among refugees and locals in West Nile, a gap that was widened by food ration cut by the World Food Program amidst the global Covid-19 pandemic.
Such a condition led to mindset change among refugees who have formed village savings schemes to aid agriculture and retail businesses with help from locals and development partners.
The two communities borrow money from their respective Village saving groups in order to practice agriculture and also venture in other businesses.
From July 2020, a consortium of partners led by World Vision came up with Security, Protection and Economic Empowerment Program in Uganda (SUPREME) project funded at a tune of 11,737,000 Euros by European Union and members of the consortium to boost capacity of the two communities through skills training and financial support.
To a refugee like Juma David from Omugo Zone in Rhino Camp settlement, indulging in agricultural activities is a way to supplement the reduced food ration by WFP as farming remains a pivotal initiative to addressing nutritional challenges in the camps.
“The reduction in food ration to 70 percent affected us. Many people will run back to South Sudan if we don’t engage ourselves in Agriculture” Juma said.
Sustainable Agriculture, financial inclusion and skilling of the youth are the components that the consortium implements under the SUPREME project where a complete value chain of production and marketing is ensured with a reflection to boost nutritional efficiencies and increased income levels of refugees and locals.
However, access to agricultural inputs in the refugee camps has remained a major challenge that the SUPREME project wants to address by involving private sector players through the Challenge Fund component of the project under SNV.
Members of the host communities also practice barter trade with refugees by exchanging the vegetables they have with what they lack.
“The refugees also need our help. When they don’t have money, they request us to exchange what they have with what we give to them”, says Christine Adrako, a local in Moyo town council.
Under the office of the prime minister, refugees are allocated not more than 50 by 50 pieces of land. But due to good relationships, refugees rent land from the locals at fair prices which they use to undertake their projects.
Mr Charles Ssekatawa, the SUPREME project manager at World Vision noted that Covid-19 posed a threat to implementation of the project at inception stage, adding that working in a consortium with other development partners made it possible to reach a larger number of the targeted group.
“Districts that are hosting the refugees have limited resources and while hosting refugees, these resources are constrained and we are looking for ways to help them through agriculture and financial inclusion as Covid-19 worsened the living conditions the more”, Ssekatawa noted.
The four years SUPREME project is implemented by World Vision, ZOA, RICE West Nile and SNV in four West Nile refugee hosting districts of Terego, Madi-Okollo, Obongi and Moyo with a total of 183,640 have benefited either directly or indirectly.
A total of 1000 Savings and Development Clusters (Savings groups) have benefited from training, farm tools and seeds to set up kitchen gardens and 30 private sector players who will receive 900,090 Euros through a challenge fund implemented by SNV to supply inputs and training to targeted farmers.