By Andrew Masinde
Uganda is globally recognised for its progressive refugee-hosting policy. Over 1. 4 million refugees live in settlements and are provided with plots of land on which to live.
Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement in West Nile hosts over 125,000 refugees from South Sudan (the majority women and children) often displaced by war but also hunger and extreme poverty.
Over the years, refugees in Uganda have had problems related to land, food and resources hence requiring interventions.
To solve these challenges, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer (EWS-KT) with support from the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND) has launched a project in the Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement in Arua, aimed at promoting repeatable and value-added food security approaches, namely vegetable farming techniques for better yields.
The project targets the 125,000 refugees first in 7,000 households and it is expected to provide a model for other settlements in Uganda renowned for their vast refugee population coming from South Sudan and Congo.
The project also aims at training 10,000 farmers in peer-to-peer learning through radio and digital means.
Speaking during the launch of the project, in Omugo sub-county recently, Wildfred Seka, the Terego district chairman, said this is a good initiative that is going to support refugees and host communities to fight food insecurity. He was also happy that the project identifies with the livelihoods of ordinary persons.
He revealed that the training given today is going to help increase production for the local farmers now and soon they will need to bulk produce in groups and sell to a ready market.
“They will now afford to pay school fees, even the international demand for fruits is huge. Hence the sky will be the limit for the communities,” he revealed.
Joshua Mwanguhya, the country manager for EWS-KT, highlighted the importance of the intervention, stating that water scarcity is an issue in vegetable production, which is why they are pushing for home gardens.
He explained that now that the World Food Programme (WFP) is moving away from food distribution to giving cash in these settlements, it was becoming more critical that they have water so that youth and women can grow vegetables throughout the year.
“We are currently working with 5,000 refugees, yet the region has over 120,000 refugees. So, you can imagine the support we need to empower women as they sustain their families,” Mwanguhya said.
He added that when refugees eventually return to their home countries, they will have the farming knowledge necessary to sustain themselves.
“I have been to South Sudan, and in their local markets, 80-90% of the vegetables are imported from Uganda. This is an opportunity for them to gain a decent living now that they have got the farming skills they need,” he revealed.
Christine Drusila, one of the farmers, said that she was happy that they were going to get diversified skills in kitchen vegetable gardens that help mothers maintain a balanced diet.
“Because of the kitchen garden, our children can no longer get malnourished. We are going to earn money by selling to communities too. The quality seeds we got are changing our little gardens and are in turn a boost to our nutrition,” she said.