IKEA Foundation contributes $3.5 million to support FAO’s work with refugees and host communities in eastern Africa
Initiative seeks to increase self-reliance of vulnerable populations and lay the groundwork for increased agribusiness investment
30 July 2020, Rome – A $3.5 million dollar contribution from the IKEA Foundation will support efforts by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to empower refugees and their host communities in one of the world’s largest displacement crises. The partnership will help vulnerable populations in Kenya and Uganda to generate a reliable source of income, by helping them to cultivate in-demand crops and connecting them to market opportunities.
Eastern Africa is currently home to one the world’s largest displacement crises: estimates indicate there are currently more than 1.9 million refugees living in Kenya and Uganda alone. Most of the refugee population resides in camps, though the number living in urban areas has continued to rise in recent years. Many of the refugees have been present in the countries for long periods of time; some have fled past conflicts in neighboring countries such as Somalia, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Burundi, Rwanda, and Eritrea, but others have been forced from their homes by famine or environmental events such as droughts and floods.
“Agriculture has the potential to offer solutions even in some of the most challenging environments,” said FAO Deputy Director-General, Beth Bechdol. “Thanks to the IKEA Foundation, we will be able to support some of the world’s most vulnerable communities in using agriculture as a means to create sustainable livelihoods.”
The support from the IKEA Foundation will allow FAO, in partnership with UNHCR, to help
17 000 refugees and local residents earn a decent income by growing high-quality crops, using regenerative farming methods that protect the environment. The initial phase of the project will run for four years, and will link the farmers with local food companies which need to develop a reliable supply base for these products.
The initial collaboration will focus on passion fruit and groundnut production and will involve two local private sector companies: KadAfrica, which operates in Uganda and exports passion fruit pulp, and INSTA Products, a Kenya-based company that manufactures Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) items where the main ingredient is groundnut paste.
Both groundnut and passion fruit production offer refugees and host communities alike the possibility for a steady source of income, helping both communities to increase self-reliance and improve socio-economic integration. By encouraging the cultivation of in-demand products, the partnership hopes to lay the groundwork for increased agribusiness investment in the area.
Although refugees living in both countries have some access to farmland and rights to work, the majority are still dependent on food aid: more than 70 percent of refugees in Uganda and more than 80 percent in Kenya depend on UN agencies or their partners to meet their basic food needs. Those who can grow their own food often lack ways to sell any surplus, as agricultural production is not linked to market opportunities. In Uganda, for example, only 22 percent of refugees and 45 percent of host communities manage to sell part of their produce.
As the duration of displacement increases, sustainable, long-term solutions beyond humanitarian assistance become more urgently needed. In Uganda, FAO has supported refugees and their host communities at multiple sites, helping to stabilize livelihoods by providing key farming inputs and knowledge, building livestock assets and promoting production diversification through the introduction of high value crops. In Kenya, FAO and UNHCR have worked closely in and around the Kalobeyei refugee settlement, promoting sustainable agricultural expansion through land rehabilitation, irrigation development and training for improved food and nutrition security of both the refugee and host community population.