By Bazio Doreen.

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 not only made the women embrace commercial farming but also become self-reliant. 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.  

Barua Hellen, 40, a member of Oroko Women Group, says she has used the money she gets from the goat rearing business to buy eye glasses to improve her eye sight, buy solar panels for her home and build a lock up (shop/stall) in the neighboring Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement.

“DRDIP has made me a landlady. I built a small stall in Nyumanzi Refugee Settlement and it has been on rent for 4 months now. I used to use small torches or my phone torch for lighting at night but now I have solar,” Barua recounts.

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 (3% to VRF and 2% to group account). However, the group sustains itself with a weekly saving of shs 10,000/= that is mandatory for all members.

For Bayoa Alice, 35, a member of Amenira group, the DRDIP support has enabled her acquire a motorcycle, set up a groceries shop that also sells petrol by the roadside, install reliable power and operate a grinding mill. The fasting growing business woman now saves shs 13,000/= way above the shs 10,000/= on average saved by members. Alice who is one of the 30 members (18 men and 12 women) of the group also reveals that she earns about shs 800,000/= from the groceries and petrol vending, and about shs 600,000/= from the grinding mill.

“I chose a groceries shop and petrol vending because they are necessities and this means that I am able to at least earn something small every day. I also stopped using bodaboda because I bought a motorcycle of my own. Before, I used to also use car batteries for electricity but now I have solar,” Alice explains.

Equally, Florence, 30, the treasurer of the VRF, and a member of Amengwira, says her DRDIP story is one of gratitude. Florence has been able to a simsim garden, pay school fees and revive her tailoring business. Although, she currently, sews from home, Florence has dreams of expanding the business should there be an opportunity for funding it.

“Before the intervention, my sewing machine had broken down and yet it was my source of livelihood. But now, I was able to buy a new machine and renewed my source of income. I make money daily,” Florence narrates.

Amengwira group has 30 members. There are 18 women and 12 men. Of these, 6 are youth and 2 are persons with special needs. They received shs 6.5 million from the VRF. In addition to the money they get from the VRF, they save shs 10,000/= weekly.

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.