FAO Regional Office for Africa

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

Focus on enhancing resilience and self-reliance in displacement settings

Workshop participant at the event : Photo ©FAO/Judith Mulinge

14 November 2019 - Nairobi, Kenya: Discussions on the need for durable solutions in displacement settings, including economic and social integration of refugees among host communities, while ensuring sustainable energy and environment solutions, took centre stage in Nairobi this week.

Humanitarian and development actors in Eastern Africa met from 13th to 14th November, to examine ways to help refugees strengthen their livelihoods and self-reliance while reducing pressure on host communities and the environment. The 2-day discussions yielded the next steps to the development of joint programmes 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, safe access to fuel and energy and sustainable natural resource management for refugees and their host communities.

“Partnerships like this one with FAO are vital, not only for the refugees but for the communities that have been hosting them for many years,” said UNHCR’s Regional Bureau Director, Clementine Nkweta-Salami. “Decades of generosity shown by host countries in this region must be recognized and supported. This what our joint programme with FAO aims to achieve.”

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 on 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 recognition of this, the workshop was designed to develop future collaborative projects and share good practices, towards providing effective support for forcibly displaced people in the region’s camps and settlement areas.

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 requiring urgent food, nutrition and livelihoods assistance live in Eastern Africa. We welcome the clear focus on investments to build resilient agricultural livelihoods and food and nutrition self-reliance, through jobs and livelihood support and the promotion of sustainable energy access,’ noted Cyril Ferrand, Lead of the FAO Resilience Team for Eastern Africa.

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 centre

Beyond short-term assistance needs, the longer-term economic and social inclusion of refugees into host communities is a key issue as well as access to modern energy services for cooking and powering agriculture-based livelihoods. This includes promoting the sustainable use of natural resources and improved management of forests, which are a priority of the FAO-UNHCR joint action in the region.

There are more than 4.5 million refugees in the region hosted by countries facing their own economic and development challenges and left to absorb the impact of new arrivals, on their services, infrastructure, labour markets, and environment, without enough resources. Relieving pressure on host countries goes hand-in-hand with enabling refugees to contribute to the communities where they live and secure their own futures until a solution to their plight can be found. By affirming the Global Compact on Refugees in December 2018, Member States of the UN-recognized that greater international solidarity is needed to sustainably respond to refugee crises. The Global Compact serves as a blueprint to translate this principle into concrete action, with results that benefit both refugees and the communities that host them. The joint FAO-UNHCR partnership is one of the examples of the Global Compact on Refugees in action.