Groundnuts Changing Futures in Northern Uganda’s Refugee Communities
“Can you keep up with the pace?” asks South-Sudanese Business Support Facilitator Modi Frezer Amule. “We South-Sudanese are used to walking, I walked in three days from my hometown Yei to the Ugandan border, carrying all my stuff”.
We met Modi, one of about 1.5 million refugees living in Uganda, who easily talked about the intense journey he went through when he fled his home during the civil war. He now supports farmer groups under the Agri-Business Skilling for Youth in a Refugee Context (ABSYR) project, as a Business Support Facilitator.
We also visited a groundnut field, planted by the young farmers group ‘Save to Change.’ “We want to change our futures by learning how to do business, and we want to transfer our knowledge to others as well”, explains group member Stella Yunimgba (27). The choice for groundnut as a crop was not a coincidence. As part of a business training by ICCO, the group developed a business plan that included market research. “We visited many markets in the district and noticed that groundnuts are limited, but they sell for a good price. So it was our best option. Besides, we found a trusted person that could sell us quality seeds for a good price” she added.
Although Uganda’s national policies allow refugees to work and to use land for farming, obtaining land is not easy for most refugees and the host community members. Through the ABSYR program, ZOA assists selected farmer groups in making gainful arrangements with landlords. “We are lucky, we have a great landlord who rented 4 acres of land to us, and with the money we make this year, we will rent more land close to the valley tank so that we can also do cropping in the dry season”, explains the 24 year old secretary of ‘Kenyi Scropas of ‘Save to change’ group.
Valley tank near BidiBidi settlement
The ABSYR consortium constructed 4 valley tanks in the region to save the rainwater from the rainy season for the dry season. “We are very grateful for this project because even when we return home we can use the skills we have gained to make a difference in our lives”, says the chairperson of the group. “We can even transfer the knowledge we gained to others so they can start their business as well”. The group appreciates both the long term view of the ABSYR project, as well as the complementarity of the consortium partners. Speaking about the role of War Child, the chairperson of ‘Save to Change’ says, ”I think this is the only project giving psychosocial support to farmer groups from both refugee and host communities”.
Humanitarian aid is shifting towards cash transfers so that beneficiaries can buy what they need themselves. The UN World Food Program for example reduced assistance through food distribution in 2020 and is expected to continue the trend in 2021 due to budget cuts. The increasing demand prompted by such a cash economy therefore calls for an increase in products to market, an opportunity that refugee and host community farmer groups under the ABSYR project continue to exploit through the production and sale of food products in Yumbe district´s local markets. According to ‘Save to Change’ group, the project has helped to increase the availability of food in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement and surrounding local markets.
About ABSYR project
The ABSYR project in Yumbe district, North-West Uganda, is a three year project financed by the Embassy of the Netherlands in Uganda. The project focuses on access to land, psychosocial support and entrepreneurship with special attention to youth and women. So far, 5,000 youth from both host and refugee communities have been equipped with skills for gainful self employment in agri-business, and 1,000 supported with advanced business development skills to stimulate the local business ecosystem.