HIJRA Supporting livelihoods in Refugee Settlements

Since the Covid-19 epidemic, refugee households have been disproportionally and negatively impacted where limited income-generating opportunities coupled with continued reductions in food assistance affected the resources needed to meet basic needs. The majority of the refugees in Uganda remain dependent on food aid from WFP, with the PSNs and new arrivals depending 100% on food aid. This has been worsened by the fragile situation in neighboring conflict affected countries such as Burundi and Congo resulting in new asylum seekers and an increase due to natural growth within the settlements which has increased the strain on the household economy. In past years, livelihood interventions by implementing partners in the refugee settlements emphasized agricultural rather than non-agricultural livelihood options such as micro-finance, business skills, and entrepreneurship. Now, HIJRA and other partners focus on offering a package of livelihood interventions which are both agricultural and non-agricultural to help address the challenges faced by refugees. For example, HIJRA and its partners have focused on providing new arrivals and PSNs and other individual households access to improved seeds for the establishment of vegetable gardens. Through these vegetable gardens, refugees learn how to grow fruit and vegetables in kitchen gardens and are supported to farm in a more organic and climate-adapted way. In addition to a more varied diet, the soil quality as well as the water use are optimized and the overall yields are increased. Furthermore, HIJRA equips youth, women (especially child mothers) and men in selected communities with life skills in brick making, construction, bar soap, and sanitary pads making. Groups comprising of child mothers are trained and supported to be involved in income-generating activities that include fish farming, apiary, and backyard gardening; These projects not only generates income but it also contribute to nutritional requirements of children within the community.

Micro-Finance, business skills and entrepreneurship

Another intervention supported by HIJRA is the building up of skills in micro-finance, business skills and entrepreneurship amongst refugee populations.  In particular HIJRA has helped train, youth, child mothers and women in Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) and financial literacy as a means of financial inclusion. Through the VSLA’s, microloans provide group members the financial resources they need to build their businesses, support their families, and send their children to school. VSLA’s typically comprise of a group of 10 to 30 members who ensure the risk of one another’s loans. They meet on a regular basis to receive training, make payments, and manage their collective resources. In these savings associations, savings are made at group level in order for members to be able to fall back on cash reserves even in emergencies. The participants help each other to save money for times of need and enable each other to take out small loans. These loans are used to pay school fees, medical treatment costs or agricultural investments. Micro and group loans help entrepreneurs increase their earnings and equip families to provide for themselves. As clients invest their loans into their businesses—purchasing supplies, inputs, machinery, or inventory— they are able to grow their operations, increase their sales, and improve their livelihoods. These financial tools are coupled with comprehensive training by HIJRA and its partners to ensure that clients not only have access to resources but also know how to use them. Through training in critical skills including financial literacy and business management, refugees learn basic financial skills related to earning, spending, budgeting, and borrowing money. As clients build their businesses, these critical financial literacy modules ensure they are informed as they make major financial decisions. The ultimate goal of these HIJRA-partner supported training is to improve refugees’ understanding of savings, personal financial management, selection of a business venture, and planning, and management of income-generating activities. These skills help beneficiaries in promoting income generation and sustainable livelihoods that in turn bring about resilience and sustainability within communities.
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