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 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 Bean) and Oroko Women Group (Goat fattening); with loans that they are required to reimburse with an interest and within a given period.

For Lulu Thomas, 46, the DRDIP experience has been a transforming one. The Chairperson of Amatura group also reveals that the support has enabled him to transition from a subsistence farmer to a commercial farmer. He borrowed shs 250,000/= from the group and bought an ox plough to plant gnuts, maize and cassava. He was able to get shs 2,350,000/=

“I had never seen such huge money. I sold 40 basins of cassava at shs 40,000/= each, I also sold 25 basins of gnuts at shs 30,000/= each. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any yield from the maize I planted. Supplier used to cheat farmers but now I am wiser,” Lulu reveals.

Lulu has also been able to install solar power in his home which is a source of both electricity and security lights especially at night. He has also been able to pay for school fees for his children.

“I have been able to install solar power in my compound. My compounds now shines bright at night and makes me feel more secure than before. Even each hut now has at least a solar lamp,” Lulu narrates.

For Asilaza Sunday, 40, a member of Amenira group, says that although their group enterprise is soya beans, he has had the opportunity to venture into other enterprises. He now has 2 acres of cassava, sold 4 out of 6 sacks of simsim harvested last year and has in store 7 sacks of gnuts. From the simsim he sold, he was able to earn shs 320,000/=. 

“I sold 4 basins of simsim at a cost of shs 80,000/=. I used the money I got to cater for the basic needs of my family,” Asilaza says.

Asilaza also reveals that venturing into his own agribusiness has enabled him to create a more dependable source of income for his family needs.

On the other hand, Drichi Joseph, 50, one of the 21 members of Amenira group, also says the DRDIP support has enabled his family cope with drought and famine. The secretary of the group also reveals that he planted gnuts and cassava.

“The weather pattern these days is hard to predict. But when we together in a group, we are able to advice each other instead compete against each other. Every year before I plant, I consult other farmers in the group,” Drichi narrates.

The group saves between shs 2,000/= and shs 10,000/=. The group borrowed shs 6,500,000/= and shs 12, 300,000/= in two installments respectively.

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.