By Bazio Doreen.

According to a report shared by United Nations High Commission for Refugees released in 2021 on employment statistics for refugees in Uganda, just 29% of refugees in Uganda are actively working versus 64% of host communities. Even after considering differences in age, gender and education, refugees are 35% points less likely than Ugandan nationals to be employed which leaves self-employment as the most immediate solution. Development Response to Displacement Impact Project (DRDIP), has made a significant contribution towards averting this challenge through supporting self-help groups that deal in produce buying and selling as a business.

Nyumanzi Block A2 produce buying and selling is one of such groups. With support of Ugx 21 million, through what they term as ‘Non-Traditional Agriculture’, group members are now able to earn between Ugx 150,000/= to 250,000/= depending on the prevailing situation/season. The group started in January 2022, has 15 members and does additional mandatory saving of Ugx 25,000/= per member.

According to Chol Khot, 31, the Chairperson of the group, doing the small grocery businesses has helped to empower the women to fulfil the basic needs of their families. The group is also able to give out loans to other people including members and this is paid back with profit.

“When we calculate off what we get as profit, we are able to pay school fees for our children. We are also able to afford good food and eat a balanced diet together with our families opposed to when we would previously depend entirely on the food rations. Through giving out loans, we also encourage other women to support themselves through setting up something.” Chol says.

Chol also says the business has helped to bring services/market near to the people in Nyumanzi.

“We help to save the time and effort of people. Instead of them walking long distances to the market, we buy the goods and avail them nearer to them.” Chol boasts.

The group usually deals in groceries like: wheat flour, sugar, cooking oil, juice, soft drinks, sop and salt. From a bag of sugar that costs Ugx 120,000/=, bag of wheat flour that costs Ugx 100,000/= and a 20 litres jerry can of cooking oil that costs Ugx 140,000/=; the women make a profit of Ugx 10,000/=, Ugx 12,000/= and 15,000/= respectively.

Chol, however, says that the group requires capacity building training in business management and lobby for more funding to boost the small businesses.  

Feeding the family is a daily struggle for many refugees. But with a small helping hand, groups of refugee women have been able to start thriving small businesses to support their families. According to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), as of January 2023, Adjumani was hosting 208,413 refugees. Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement is home to 43,547, the camp with the highest number.