FEATURE. 18- Year old Harriet Dawa, the treasurer for SALUME youth farmers’ group stunned the guests with a moving testimony of how their youth group had risen from a shadowy formation in 2018 to an example to emulate in 2020.

The SALUME group, translated loosely to mean ‘start-up’ in the native Pojulu (tribe) language, set its sight on achieving economic prosperity.

Located in the low lands of Block C of Ofua II cluster, in the Rhino Camp settlement in West Nile, Uganda, the group consisting of 20 members (15 refugees and five host community members) was registered at the local government with a constitution.

Dawa says such a good base of formation allowed it to thrive despite lacking training on a number of their key operations

“We only saved sh550,000 in one year through income generated from different activities” she says. These activities included Sand mining, rock quarrying, making of pancakes, roasted ground nuts and maize all for sale.

The group’s main activity remains farming but to allow the vision of self-reliance to be achieved, they formed a village savings and loan association (VSLA) to collectively manage the group’s finances.

A year later, the group was co-opted by German development agency (GIZ) under the response to increased demand on government service and creation of economic opportunities in Uganda (RISE), a project funded by the European Union (EU) and the German ministry of Economic cooperation and development (BMZ) and has since never looked back.

Ms DawaMs Dawa (2nd R) and other beneficiaries shortly after receiving goats (PHOTO BY RIMILIAH AMANDU)

SALUME group on course to attain vision

The GIZ program breathed the much needed energy in the SALUME group, and most of the activities have since expanded.

“We were able to save sh784,000 in just a period of three months after being co-opted by GIZ” Dawa narrates.

She says with the help of inputs from GIZ, the group was able to produce 1500Kg of Onions on 1.5acres of land and consequently reaping shs3million.

3.6 acres of ground nuts awaits harvesting by press time while the group boasts of 25 goats, on 9th November, more 43 goats were added under the RISE program.

Parents of the youth from the host community have offered land for the group’s activities while some of the land is rented.

An impressed Ms Jenniffer Namuyangu, the state minister of local government while officiating at the handover hailed the cordial relations between the refugees and their hosts.

She also thanked the international partners for heeding to the governments call to have integrated projects consisting of equal numbers of refugees and the host communities.

She however warned that much more must be done to avert the increasing threats of climate change.

“Climate change is becoming a serious threat to the livelihood of small scale farmers who depend mainly on agriculture and as you can see most communities depend on natural resources for their livelihood”

“Therefore it’s important for the district and all the partners to work together in promoting climate resilient agriculture, kindly take care of the trees as you take care of the goats and all the other inputs that have been given for economic resilience”, She appealed.

About the RISE Program

Mr Patrick Poehlmann, head of the RISE program says the initiative is aimed at increasing incomes of refugees and host communities especially youth and single women through improving their agricultural production.

Under the program, 200 learning groups with over 5000 members in the districts of Terego, Adjumani, Moyo, Obongi and Madi Okollo are supported.

Ms Iris Knabe, the head of development cooperation thanked the government of Uganda for the open door policy that enables refugees and host communities to enjoy equal benefits.

“We thank the government of Uganda for providing a framework that allows economic inclusion of refugees, in addition to shelter, water, education and health, everyone needs a source of productive employment and income to attain for self-reliance and we gather here to recognise the start of a journey to support self-reliance”, Knabe said.