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Enhancing resilience and self-reliance in displacement settings

FAO-UNHCR boost partnership on refugees and host communities’ resilience in Eastern Africa

15 November 2019 – The need for inclusion of refugees in development policy and value chains of host countries, including through sustainable energy, environment and livelihoods took center stage in Nairobi this week during the discussions between the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Two-thirds of the world’s refugees are caught in protracted crisis situations with limited prospects for economic self-reliance. More than 40 percent of refugees globally live in rural settings characterized by poverty and food insecurity, with the majority dependent on humanitarian food assistance to meet their basic needs. To address these challenges, the two agencies have signed a five-year Global Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with a specific focus on inclusive economic development and sustainable natural resource management for refugees and their host communities. 

In their opening remarks UNHCR emphasized the need to support both refugees and host countries; and the value of the MoU between the two organizations.

In Eastern Africa, the complexity of the root causes of conflict is placing unprecedented pressure on food systems and socio-economic development of the host countries, with refugees remaining dependent for longer periods on ongoing international humanitarian assistance.

“Neither FAO nor UNHCR can meet the challenge of food security and refugee self-reliance alone. Only through partnership can we succeed,” noted Dominque Burgeon, FAO’s Head of Emergency and Resilience Division, in a video address to the participants. In recognition of this, the workshop was designed to develop future collaborative projects and share good practices, to provide effective support for forcibly displaced people in the region’s camp and non-camp settings.

Building on successful and sustainable resilience building practices

The agricultural sector represents the main source of income and food security for both refugees and host communities. The workshop focused on developing joint FAO-UNHCR regional and country-level activities and interventions aimed at improving resilience and self-reliance, ensuring sustainable energy access and natural resource management in displacement settings in Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Speaking on behalf of Dr Chimimba David Phiri, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for Eastern Africa, “More than an estimated 24 percent of people facing acute hunger and required urgent food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance live in Eastern Africa. We welcome the clear focus on investments to build resilient agricultural livelihoods and self-reliance, through jobs and livelihood support, and the promotion of sustainable energy access,” noted Cyril Ferrand, FAO’s Resilience Team for Eastern Africa Leader.

Specific areas for collaboration will include analysis of data to inform programming, emergency livelihoods assistance, development of inclusive agricultural value chains; social and natural resources management support, and safe and sustainable access to energy.

Placing affected populations at the center

Beyond short-term assistance needs, the longer-term economic and social inclusion of refugees into host communities is a key issue. This includes promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and improved management of forests, which is a priority of the FAO-UNHCR joint action in the region. As FAO Senior Forestry Officer Sven Walter said, “Forests and trees outside forests contribute to the resilience of communities and livelihoods to threats and crises and to resolving the underlying causes of food security, malnutrition and poverty. They are an essential prerequisite for sustainable development.”

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