Monthly Archives: November 2016

Woman embraces biogas in Kakuma

Four pieces of firewood in the camp costs an average Ksh100 ($1). For a family of four children that is the average amount they require to prepare one meal.

Susan Naimana, 37, is a mother of four who has been struggling to prepare meals for her children due to the prohibitive cost of firewood, in Kakuma Refugee Camp, in Turkana County, Kenya that has a population of over 190, 000 refugees.

“Firewood is expensive here. One can have food but struggle to access firewood for preparing it,” says Naimana, a Burundi refugee, who fled her country six years ago.

A month ago, Susan used a Ksh 61, 000 ($610) loan from AAH Kenya, to install a biogas. She will repay the loan in one year. The installation, which was undertaken by Biogas International, serves as a model of a sustainable domestic energy source.

Naimana is the ideal critical champion, not only does she care for her family, but runs a home bakery in the camp. She says she uses close to Ksh500 ($5) weekly to prepare close to 1000 loaves of bread that she sells to three primary schools, situated within the camp.

“Once am able to produce more gas, I will spend about Ksh100 ($1) daily on energy to make bread, a saving of up to Ksh400 ($4). This the cost of transporting the waste from the slaughter house,” she says, adding that the waste is free. Currently, she uses biogas to cook her family’s meals, but she plans to create a bigger digester in order to produce more gas to use in the bakery.

In Kakuma, Naimana is using leftover food, by-products from the local slaughter house and mathenge leaves to fill the digester. The biogas system consists of a simple tank, the floor and sides are covered with thick polythene paper. Inside this tank, bacteria convert organic waste into methane gas through the process of anaerobic digestion.

Waste and water are added to the digester on daily basis using a ratio of one to one. The gas lasts approximately 22 hours, from the moment of filling the system.

Edith Ingutuia, the Kakuma Project Business Development Officer, says Naimana’s biogas system is a model one. “If it succeeds, then we can roll it out to other refugees. They need to see and understand its benefits,” she says.

AAH Kenya set up The Kakuma Refugee Assistance Programme (KRAP) in 2015 aimed at enhancing the self-reliance and promoting sustainable livelihoods for over 4,000 refugees in Kakuma Camp, through the implementation of models that address resilience. These includes skills to increase employment opportunities and promote enterprises.

AAH Kenya was appointed by UNHCR as the lead partner for livelihoods activities in Kakuma Refugee Camp. Its objectives are to promote agribusiness and to facilitate Persons of Concern (PoCs) access to self-employment, including support to set up businesses.

Meet Bigirimana, a top goat farmer in Kyangwali

Samson Bigirimana, 26, was no different from other child refugees who entered Uganda amidst uncertainty, close to 20 years ago. But he has made a mark through farming.

As this year’s World Refugee Day was marked with the theme “Get to Know Refugees. They are people like you and me”, Bigirimana’s remarkable resilience is an exemplar of what one can accomplish in the face of adversity.

In 1999, aged only eight, Bigirimana came from Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) to Uganda through Bunagana in Kisoro district. He was fleeing clashes in his country.

Bigirimana came to Uganda alone. When his home was attacked, the family members escaped for their lives. He has not had any communication with his family, since he has no trace of any of his relatives. He is clueless as to whether they still alive or not.

He briefly settled in Nyakabande Refugee Transit camp in Kisoro before UNHCR relocated him to Kyangwali Refugee Settlement. In Kyangwali, Bigirimana, enrolled at Kinakitaka Primary School. He later joined Kyangwali Secondary School, before switching to Duhaga Secondary school in Hoima District, where he studied Physics, Economics, Mathematics and Entrepreneurship to secure a place at university. However, Bigirimana’s hopes of studying Computer Science at university did not materialise, as he could not raise the requisite fees.

Bigirimana started pig-farming with only two piglets, while still in school. But it was a challenge to handle farming and school at the same time. So he shelved his dream until 2010 when he started goat rearing.

In 2012, AAH Uganda took him on as an employee, to support a nutrition project for covering health centres in the settlement. Bigirimana continued with his farming. Initially, starting with only four goats, the number increased to 60, over a span of five years. He also farms two acres of Irish potatoes, maize, and beans, and employs at least ten people (fellow refugees) every season. He pays each Ush 300,000 (about US100), monthly.

He has received training in farming and AAH Uganda sometimes gives him improved maize and bean seeds to plant. The settlement is his major market – a population that includes, refugees, members of the local host community refugees, and staff of NGOs.

Fondly referred to as “wise man” by many people within the settlement, Bigirimana says he started learning farming skills, when he was five, his father owned a herd of over 100 cattle and goats.

When the goats accumulate, he sells them at an average of Ush 200,000 -250,000 (USD 80-90) each. The goats are mainly bought by the nationals around the settlement. He says his refugee status cannot hamper his ambition to be a successful farmer. “My life is an adventure still being written,” he says poetically, and with humility.

“Any refugee who cannot live their dreams while in Kyangwali Settlement will never do so elsewhere,” Bigirimana says. “We have free fertile land, free medication, free water…basically everything here is provided by AAH Uganda.”

His business has enabled to him buy two motorcycles, and to start a money lending venture. His clientele include fellow refugees, and staff working for different agencies operating within the settlement.

However, he faces a number of challenges, such a as limited availability of veterinary services and limited land for expansion. He hopes to save about Ush 1000,000 (USD 3300) in order to buy more land so that he can embark on large scale farming

Yemeni refugee runs successful taxi business in Hargeisa

Hassan Adam Hareth with his taxi in Hargeisa City, Somaliland. Hassan makes about $30 daily from his taxi business.

He is about six-feet tall and carries a friendly smile, as he drives cautiously along streets in Hargeisa city, Somaliland.

He talks fleetingly and slowly, but maintains his amicability. He has proven that refugees can led normal lives and fend for themselves. He has debunked the notion that refugees depend on rations, for their survival. This is after they lose their livelihood in their countries, due to conflict.

Hassan Adam Hareth, 46, is Yemeni who fled conflict in his country in mid – 2015, and currently among 11500 asylum seekers and refugees in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa, drawn from eight countries. There are slightly over 3000 asylum seekers and refugees from Yemen.

Hareth was working as a manager for a money transfer agency in Taiz city, in Yemen for three years. He was a happy family man, with two of his five children studying in university. Life was good for his family as he earned a salary that comfortably sustained them. Suddenly, the war in Yemen changed it all.

“I left the country with my entire family, and moved to Hargeisa, with the future looking completely uncertain,” says Hareth, a father of children, aged between 11 and 22. “I was miserable and kept wondering how my children and wife would survive,” he says.

But he was able to start a business whose profitability is quickly rising, barely three months, since he started it. Hareth is currently doing a taxi business that has enabled him to feed and pay fees for his children, feed and clothe them. He is among eight refugees who AAH-I in Somaliland has supported to each own a taxi.“I make about $40 per day, but $10 goes for fuel and other expenses. I remain with $30 daily,” he says, as he changes gears. Competition was stiff when he started the business, but he quickly adopted.

AAH-I in Somaliland gave him $4300 in November, 2015 for the Income Generating Activity (IGA). This funding is from UNHCR. He used the money to buy Noah vehicle for a taxi that operates in Hargeisa. With the $750 he makes monthly, Hareth has been able to cater for basic needs for his family and pay for fees for his two children in university. “My wife is also in her first year of university, studying Islamic Studies,” says Hareth of his wife, Hafsa Haji, 42.

He plans to save and with a group of other businesspeople to start a wholesale shop that imports foodstuff in the next two – three years.

According to AAH-I’s Self Reliance/Livelihoods Manager Barlet Jaji, in Hargeisa, the organisation created 46 viable businesses last year. These are Yemenis, Congolese, Ethiopians, Eritreans and Palestine. The beneficiaries are refugees who have fled their countries due to conflict.

At a tender age, Stani shows the way in farming

Irafasha Gadi steadily holds the hosepipe as he waters vegetables, bracing the scorching sun at Kakuma Refugee Camp, Turkana County, in Kenya.

Irafasha, aka Stani,18, is a Burundian refugee farmer and member of the Shamba la Eden (Garden of Eden) farmers’ group. This is a group supported by AAH Kenya. Stani hails from Nyanzarek, Eastern Burundi, and is the last born in a family of nine.

“I came to Kakuma on 14 June 2014 following the political upheaval in my country that forced me to flee and seek refuge. It took me about four months to arrive here. I am thankful to be alive even though some of my family members were killed, while others are yet to be traced,” he reveals.

The luscious-growing green vegetables are a sight he was familiar with for most of his teenage years, growing up in Burundi. Somehow, Stani maintains a sense of hope that he can still rebuild all that was lost as a result of the conflict in his country.

Driven by his passion for farming, Stani teamed up with 10 other Burundi nationals and began the Shamba la Eden Farmers’ Group. “We started farming on a small piece of land, but when we saw the yield was good, we decided to increase the acreage,” he says, adding that they have about half an acre, teeming with various vegetables and some maize. “However, we faced many challenges, including lack of capital. As a result, we approached AAH Kenya and requested support including water, equipment, seeds and technical skills.”

“In our first year of farming we recorded a profit of about Ksh 50,000 ($500) from the sale of our crops. Some of these earnings went into purchasing additional farm inputs, while the remainder was split among the members.”

“We are grateful for the support we have received from AAH Kenya, though we are still faced with challenges such as lack of enough water for irrigation,” he says.

The group also need support with the rehabilitation of the shallow wells. “Through our joint efforts, we envision being the largest supplier of vegetables in Kakuma and its environs.”

Plumbing skills enable refugees to support their families

When refugees flee their home countries to others, due to conflict, a lot of uncertainties await them in unknown land. In addition, there are limited opportunities available for them in the countries they are hosted.

But some refugees do overcome their tribulations and find opportunities to better their lives. For instance two men in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, Uganda have acquired skills that have enabled them secure jobs.

Joseph Okwera and Mari Siliman, both aged 30, have been able to secure employment as plumbers, after undergoing a one-month plumbing course, offered by AAH Uganda.

After Okwera, a father of six, completed his training, he volunteered with AAH Uganda for three years. During this period he was hired to undertake short contracts. In 2009, he was employed by AAH Uganda as a pump attendant. Last year, he was promoted to the position of a pump technician.

“I am able to provide for my family through the pay I get. I have been able to improve my plumbing skills over time,” says Okwera, with a grin.

He fled conflict in Pajok, South Sudan in 2000, while Siliman came to Kyangwali in 2004. He also fled conflict from the same country.

What seemed to be a journey of uncertainty turned into a blessing for the duo when AAH Uganda started the training initiative on plumbing skills under its Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) programme.

Thirty people, most of them refugees, have been trained on plumbing, survey, borehole repair, and testing of water quality. Okwera and Siliman are part of a larger team that is charged by AAH Uganda to repair community boreholes and other water sources within the settlement. They also train locals how to maintain hygiene and report cases of borehole breakdown. The organisation has conducted two training sessions.

“I am proud to give back to Kyangwali community through training other people in similar skills,” said Siliman, a father four. “I am confident that I can get another job through skills imparted by AAH Uganda. I am able to provide for my children and wife through my pay.”

Okwera shares almost similar sentiments, “I hope to train more refugees to have skills like mine, or even better.”

AAH-I carries out multi-sectoral interventions in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement. The key strategic sectors of the programme that were implemented in 2015 were community services, social protection, education, heath, livelihood, environment and energy and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

In livelihoods sector, among the programme’s accomplishments were eight commercial groups supported on appropriate agronomic practices for key crops, 167 farmers facilitated for learning visits and 240 refugees supported in various Income Generating Activities (IGAs).