Refugees residing in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Kiryandongo district are calling on the government for support in the form of value addition equipment to enhance the value of their agricultural products.
The refugees, who are primarily engaged in the cultivation of crops such as maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, and chilies, have formed an association, Kiryandongo Lajjin Host Farmers Association (KILHFA), to promote group farming and collaboration.
KILHFA’s chairperson, David Leone Duku, explained that the association was established with the assistance of Action Against Hunger (ACF) and now consists of 15 farmer groups and approximately 700 members, cultivating around 86 acres of land.
Duku emphasized that the association’s focus on agriculture is aimed at reducing dependency among 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,” he said.
The refugees have made significant strides in their agricultural activities, shifting from individual farming to group farming and collaborating with host communities to access rented land. KILHFA plays a key role in mobilizing members to work collaboratively, sharing ideas, bulk-producing for the market, and forming partnerships.
However, the refugees still face some challenges, including access to land, equipment, water for production, tractors, and a milling machine. Duku and the association members appealed to the government for support in addressing these challenges.
Doreen Chikawun, a member of the association, revealed that their primary challenge had been gaining access to land, but this issue was resolved through cooperation with the host communities.
Action Against Hunger (ACF) has provided some support to KILHFA, recently donating equipment worth UGX 20 million to the association to assist them in adding value to their agricultural products. The equipment includes a tricycle, two cassava chippers, and a drying bed for cassava chips.
Sarah Namuli, the ACF field coordinator in Kiryandongo district, explained that the organization, with funding from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has been supporting farmers in block farming and various enterprises. Fifteen groups were supported and brought together under KILHFA for commercial production and collaboration.
Peter Adori, the UNHCR livelihood focal point person in Kiryandongo, acknowledged that storage and post-harvest handling have been significant challenges in the district. He praised the refugees for effectively utilizing the food store constructed by UNHCR in 2016 but cautioned them to handle post-harvest activities appropriately to maintain product quality.
Adori also noted that the issue of exploitation by middlemen could be addressed through the collective efforts of the refugee farmers, who are now working together and engaging in bulk production. He encouraged them to use the store and equipment responsibly.
The refugee farmers in Kiryandongo are taking proactive steps to improve their agricultural activities and reduce dependency, with support from organizations like ACF and the potential for additional government assistance in the future.