By Bazio Doreen and Alfred Ejoi.

Limited involvement of refugees in financial inclusion has been blamed on poverty in the settlements, which decreases the viable customer base; and the fact that businesses are used for subsistence to keep families afloat, which takes away from reinvestment in the business.

However, about 7,000 aspirant agribusiness entrepreneurs who receive funding from Development Response for Displacement Impact Project (DRDIP) through their Village Revolving Fund (VRF) have now been empowered to start their businesses effortlessly.

Under, the project’s Livelihood Support Program, refugee and host communities in Adjumani, a district still struggling with limited resources due to the influx of refugees; have been offered an opportunity to build their capacity in social, agricultural, and business development which has also provided a much-needed launching path for them to revive their dreams of financial independence and economic security.

For Madulu South VRF, located in Madulu South village, Itoasi Parish, Arinyapi Sub County, the support has helped to boost businesses that were at the verge of collapsing. The VRF was started in 2021 and supports 4 self-help groups of: Amatura (Produce buying and selling), Amengwira (Goat fattening), Amenira (Soya Beans) and Oroko Women Group (Goat fattening); with loans that they are required to reimburse with an interest and within a given period.

Wale Charles, 50, a role model man and member of Oroko Women Group, says he got a loan from the VRF early this year and this has helped to boost his business that had stalled for 10 years. At the time of the interaction, Wale’s farm had 25 goats, 70 sacks of rice, 600 poultry, and 50 pigs.

“This is not how things have always been. I started small and I have been increasing and expanding the business slowly. I started with goats, then the rice, then the poultry and finally the pigs. This is because I have quick access to loans and every end of the year, I get back my savings,” Wale reveals.

Wale also reveals that he is one of the major suppliers to hotels in Adjumani Town and dignified individuals.

“When Aragan Hotel was opening, they asked me to supply them with goats’ meat and chicken. There was time when the Area Woman Member of Parliament had a function and I was tasked to make supplies,” Wale boosts. 

From my visit, I also learnt that Wale is not only a responsible man admired by fellow group members but a role model man who has involved his wife and children in the business although he has other 4 staff. He has also been able to pay for school fees for his children. His group mates love and admire him because he saves shs 15,000/= every week, way above what many members save on average.

“I feel proud that my earnings from the animal and poultry rearing as well as the rice growing has enabled me to pay tuition for some of my children who have enrolled for courses in institutions,” Wale boosts.

Oroko women group has 34 members. There are 8 men, 16 women, 2 with special needs and 8 youth. They usually borrow shs 13 million from the VRF and reimburse it with a 5% interest rate. However, the group sustains itself from a weekly saving of shs 10,000/= that is mandatory for all members.

For Abiriga Martin, 26, a member of Amatura group, which has 24 members, says the DRDIP support has helped him set up a phone repair and accessories shop that also deals in mobile money. He got a loan of shs 1,500,000/= as startup capital and makes at least shs 600,000/= per month.

“Being a group with people who older than me and self-reliant inspired me to set up a business. From this business, I am able to pay for my tuition, basic needs and salary for one shop keeper who manages the shop when I go to school,” Abiriga reveals.

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.