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Vegetable and staple food production in refugee settlements in northern and mid-western Uganda

Support for the widespread production, preservation and consumption of high nutrient value foods to strengthen resilience to food and income insecurity

Uganda lies almost completely within the Nile Basin with irregular rainfall patterns: monomodal rainfall patterns (one rainy season) and bi-modal rainfall patterns (two rainy seasons). Its vulnerability to climate change, especially poor rainfall and long dry spells in the northern region, is affecting food security. The influx of refugees has exacerbated these challenges. Hunger, conflict and insecurity have uprooted many people from neighbouring Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Rwanda, Somalia and South Sudan over an extended period. As a result, Uganda is now the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, with almost 1.4 million refugees. Over 1 million are South Sudanese, 80 percent of whom are women and children under 18 years.

This large influx of South Sudanese refugees constitutes a major challenge across all sectors. It has created a substantial increase in the demand for food, including affordable sources of protein such as meat and eggs. The impact on the agriculture sector is particularly worrying as this is the main source of income and livelihoods for many rural communities in the hosting districts, especially the poorest and most vulnerable communities. Shrinking economic opportunities, more expensive goods and services and environmental exploitation have made the deteriorating food security situation even worse, putting a strain on vulnerable host community households and challenging their ability to meet their most basic food needs.

FAO, in collaboration with resource and implementing partners, began coordinating interventions in 2012 in some refugee settlements to address the emergency food and nutrition security and livelihood concerns of South Sudanese refugees. It provided planting materials and inputs for small-scale vegetable, staple food and poultry production, along with training in entrepreneurship and animal husbandry practices. The initiative, scaled up in 2014, aimed to improve the food, nutrition and income security of both refugees and host communities.

How does the production of staple food and vegetable crops increase the livelihood resilience of refugees and host communities?

Starting in 2012, all interventions within the settlements used the same approach of providing refugee households with vegetable and staple crop seeds along with support in production and preservation techniques. These activities were complemented by poultry rearing and the construction and use of energy saving stoves. Producing more than two types of nutritious vegetables enabled beneficiaries to diversify their income source – and improve household food security and diets. It also helped strengthen the livelihoods of vulnerable refugees and host community households, providing a buffer against shocks and risks associated with seasonality. 

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