By Yosam Gucwaki
As one way of adding value to their agricultural products, refugees from Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Kiryandongo district want the Government to support them with value addition equipment.
David Leone Duku, the chairperson of Kiryandongo Lajjin Host Farmers Association (KILHFA), which brings together refugee farmers from different groups, said they had embarked on agriculture to combat the dependency syndrome among the refugees.
“We thought it wise not to keep on depending on the Government and Non-Governmental Organisations for food assistance and financial support. We are doing this to fight household poverty and to have food security. With the help of Action Against Hunger (ACF), we formed this association which consists of 15 farmer groups. We are about 700 members doing agriculture on about 86 acres,” Duku said.
He said the farmers are mainly involved in maize, cassava, sweet potatoes and chilly growing.
“We have been doing farming as individuals, but it wasn’t viable, until we decided to work in groups. Uniting with the host communities is also helping us to easily access land for renting,” Duku added.
He said the role of the association is to mobilise members to work together, share ideas, bulk produce for the market and form partnerships, among others.
Appeal for help
Duku said the group is registered with the district local government.
He, however, appealed for government support in terms of equipment, water for production, tractors and a milling machine.
Doreen Chikawun, one of the members of the association, told New Vision that their biggest challenge was access to land, but this had been solved by working together with the host communities.
ACF, an organisation which has been working in Kiryandongo Refugees Settlement, has handed over equipment worth sh20m to the association to help them add value to their farm produce.
The equipment included a tricycle, two cassava chippers and a drying bed for cassava chips.
‘‘ACF, with funding from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has been supporting farmers to engage in block farming while dealing in different enterprises. Fifteen groups have been supported and brought under KILHFA for commercial production and bringing smallholder producers together,’’ Chikawun said.
Sarah Namuli, the ACF field co-ordinator in Kiryandongo district, said during the two years of project implementation, the groups have been supported with capacity building trainings, agro-inputs and learning visits.
She said they want to provide additional support in terms of post-harvest handling and value addition equipment in order to improve their income.
Peter Adori, the UNHCR livelihood focal point person in Kiryandongo, said the issue of storage and post harvest handling was still a big challenge in the district.
He, however, said he was happy to see refugees coming together to utilise the food store which was constructed by UNHCR in 2016.
Adori, however, warned the members to ensure that post-harvest handling is done appropriately to avoid the compromise of the quality.
“Another challenge they have been grappling with is exploitation by the middlemen. But I am sure this is going to be addressed because they are now working together and bulking,’’ he said.
In addition, he urged the refugees to use the store and other equipment constructively.