DRC refugees in Uganda sow community ties amid urgent funding gap – Uganda
World Food Program-backed agricultural project gives newcomers and Ugandan nationals income-generating tools as lack of money puts millions of people at risk in the region
By Lydia Wamala
We Kakwa bring poverty by not working in groups
We want to get out of poverty
Poverty is bad
It even causes violence in the homes.
In the dusty and remote village of Waju, a group of farmers sing and dance as they celebrate their rice harvest. They are among 5,000 refugees who have fled violence and conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and now live in Lobule refugee camp in northwestern Uganda.
Uganda hosts 1.45 million refugees, the highest number of any African country. the World Food Program (WFP) supports 1.26 million people, including 5,000 in Lobule who receive monthly cash transfers.
The Jujumbu Farmers’ Group has 28 members, including three from the host community. They are currently celebrating an impressive harvest of 7 tonnes of rice, one of the highest recorded by farmers in this refugee camp in recent years.
Aisha is one of the 22 women in the group. A single mother, she takes care of her four children and her brother’s four children.
Margaret, another member of the group, is a widow who cares for 14 children, five of whom have lost both parents (all but three of the women in the group are widows or single mothers).
Women rarely own land in this part of Uganda. Traditionally, when the male head of the household dies, his land reverts to his sons or the closest male relative.
In Uganda, refugees are not allowed to own land. Each refugee family that arrives receives 50 square meters of land to live on and grow food.
But funding gaps threaten the food security of 3 million refugees across East Africa. In Uganda, people face a 40% reduction in their basic survival needs.
“Continued funding cuts mean less food for refugees,” says Robert Dekker, who heads WFP’s refugee program in Uganda. “WFP works with local governments to promote partnerships between refugees and host communities, to improve food security and achieve sustainable coexistence.”
In 2019, the Jujumbu farmer group approached a local landowner to acquire land for farming.
“We were able to secure nine acres of land from our brother in the host community,” says Aisha. “WFP then helped us get a tractor that we used to clear the land and start growing rice.”
In partnership with Lobule Sub-County, WFP trains refugees and host communities in the dynamics and benefits of group farming, financial education, modern farming techniques and loss reduction after harvest.
“We had never heard of group farming,” says Willy, a member of the collective whose hut also serves as Jujumbu’s headquarters and grain store. “When we arrived in Uganda, WFP took us to class and taught us everything about farming as a group, when to harvest and how to store our crops safely. This is why we called our group Jujumbu, which means “to learn” in our native language Kakwa. “
Members are in no rush to sell their harvest. With the rice securely packaged and stored efficiently in Willy’s hut, they can wait for the right buyer and higher prices.
“WFP taught us to read the markets and set the prices for our harvest,” says Sumbua, a member of the group and Willy’s wife. “Currently, the market prices are not favorable and we want to expect a better one.”
While the members of Jujumbu wait for the right time and the right price to sell this crop, they can count on other income-generating activities, such as a group savings and loan program and sheep and sheep farming. goats for milk and meat.
They also plan to increase future harvests. Access to an additional 15 acres of land owned by the host community has already been agreed.
Once cleared and cultivated, the group’s harvests and profits could more than double. The construction of a new grain warehouse, which will also serve as a meeting place for members and a welcome for potential buyers, is also well underway.
WFP Uganda urgently needs $ 76 million to provide 1.26 million refugees with full rations between March and August 2021.