Monthly Archives: August 2018

Business Skills To Promote Greener Energy

A solar panel can be seen on the roof of Jean-Marie Ngandu’s barber shop at the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana County, Kenya. While the use of solar panels would ordinarily not be unique, Jean-Marie stands out as one of the refugees who are early adopters of solar energy. While Turkana enjoys up to 12 hours of daylight, the local community often use firewood as their main source of energy. This is gradually depleting green cover in the County.

“As a barbershop owner, I had resigned to using rechargeable battery-powered shavers due to the low access to sources of electricity is common in Turkana. But these were not always efficient as I would lose some customers as I waited for the batteries to charge,” says Jean Marie.

“I was excited to hear about a training on business skills and financial literacy being offered by the Kenya programme of Action Africa Help International (AAH-I). I always knew that my business could be more profitable and this was an opportunity to learn how to actualize this. On the first day of training we identified solutions to problems which we looked at as business opportunities. Most of us identified water scarcity and shortage of reliable electricity as the main issues faced by our community at the Kakuma refugee camp.”

Jean-Marie is one of the beneficiaries of a Business Management and Financial Literacy Skills training facilitated by AAH-I with funding support from Energy 4 Impact (E4I). The selected trainees are solar system retailers and secondary solar energy users in Kakuma, Turkana County. The training’s key objective was to provide solar entrepreneurs and secondary users with a platform to build their entrepreneurial and financial capacity. This initiative was undertaken in partnership with the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI), a consortium between E4I, Chatham House, Practical Action, the Norwegian Refugee Council and the United Nations Refugee Agency. Training’s participants were also trained on group formation and dynamism, savings and credit, business plan development and online marketing.

“After the training I was motivated to start using solar energy. This has had a positive impact on my business. Because I do not have lag times as I wait for the shaver batteries to charge, I can keep up with the flow of customers. I now also offer phone charging services and my income has increased. From the training I learnt about record-keeping, and I can now better keep track of my expenses and income.”

Solar panels powering Jean-Marie’s barber shop at the Kakuma Refugee Camp

Jean-Marie is a 31-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) residing at ‘Hong Kong’ in Kakuma refugee camp. “I came to Kenya through Tanzania with my wife and four children in 2001. We were transported to Kakuma refugee camp upon arrival in Nairobi. After working as a casual staff for the Lutheran World Federation, I decided to open a barber shop in order to provide for my family’s needs”.

According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre’s (IDMC) 2011 Global overview, over 168,000 displacements were reported in DRC due to the ongoing conflicts and violence in the eastern regions of the country. By the end of 2017, about 4.5 million people were displaced, with over 685,000 Congolese civilians seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. The majority of them being women and children.

According to United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Africa’s current energy production is inadequate to meet demand as about a third of the African population still lacks access to electricity despite having multiple renewable energy resources including almost unlimited solar potential.  This project by AAH-I is complementing Sustainable Development Goal 7, focused on increasing the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix by improving access to affordable and reliable energy among displaced people.

Participants attending the online online marketing training

At the end of 2017, Kenya was host to over 400,000 refugees and asylum seekers with more than 185,000 refugees and asylum seekers residing in Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyi Integrated settlement at the end of January 2018.





Better Equipped For A New Life

“I have been waiting for this moment for the past 5 years. My family and I have faced so many difficulties. Our determination and hard work has finally paid off”. These are the words of 30-year-old Mohamed Kadir. Mohamed fled his native country Ethiopia with his wife and 3 children in 2013, and settled in Hargeisa, Somaliland.

In 2017, there were over one million internally displaced people in Ethiopia. In September of the same year, attempts to demarcate the Somali and Oromiya regions border resulted in widespread violence.Once in Hargeisa, life didn’t get any easier. Like many other refugees, Mohamed struggled to get a job and support his family.

“I had no other choice but to take on odd jobs in order to meet my family’s basic needs. Job opportunities were very rare. I worked in construction and as a security guard. This enabled me to cover our rent and food expenses”.

“At the time, I was attending legal counseling sessions provided by the Comprehensive Community-Based Rehabilitation in Somaliland at the Peaceful Coexistence Centre (PCC). It is then that I discovered that the PCC also provided accelerated learning programmes for refugees, returnees and the host community. I enrolled for English and computer classes”. According to the UNHCR and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) action plan to foster refugee employment, “Engaging with employees in the hiring of refugees Report’, language is one of the most critical host country specific skills that refugees need support to develop.

The PCC is managed by Action Africa Help International’s (AAH-I) Somalia Country Programme with funding support from UNHCR. The Centre’s objective is to promote social cohesion among refugees, asylum seekers and the host community, by providing community leadership strengthening, and language, computer and vocational skills training. The PCC also offers academic support through allowing access to the Centre’s library resource materials.

Mohamed graduated after successfully completing a 6-month intensive training. He and his family obtained resettlement to Sweden through support from UNHCR in June 2018.

Mohamed, at his computer class

The PCC also provides early childhood education classes, which Mohamed’s children have benefited from. Mohamed’s daughter, Sifan, is five and wishes to become a medical doctor when she grows up.

Sifan Kadir at the PCC’s early childhood development class

“I am very grateful for the services available at the PCC. I am now computer literate and I can better express myself in good English. The skills I acquired will definitely smoothen our integration into the Swedish society”.

AAH-I was established in Puntland in 1997. Today, the programme is implementing projects targeting livelihood and self-reliance, quality education, integrated community rehabilitation, logistics and humanitarian relief and social cohesion.




It Was Considered “A Male Vocation”

Under the hot sun at the Action Africa Help International (AAH-I) workshop in Adjumani, Uganda, 30-year-old Akur Garang Ajak is engrossed in resolving a plumbing issue for a client. Watching Akur, it is difficult to imagine that not so long ago she was running for her life, not knowing what the future held.

Akur is originally from South Sudan. “The instability in my country has left many of us in despair. Because of the war our families are scattered across the region. I was born in Ethiopia and raised in Kenya. My parents fled South Sudan in 1992. I moved back to my country in 2008 with my parents, husband and two children. We were finally home. But soon after the peace and safety quickly shifted to fear as war broke out in December 2013”.

Akur fled to Juba through Jale and Mangalla before being received in June 2014 at the Zaipi Reception Centre in Adjumani-District in Uganda alongside other refugees. She was transferred to the refugee settlements of Alere and Olua before settling in Mirieyi Refugee settlement in December 2015, where she currently lives with her 4 children.

The conflict in South Sudan has driven millions of its civilians away from their homes. According to data from UNHCR, more than 2 million have escaped in a desperate pursuit of safety. Akur is one of them.

“I am grateful for NGOs because they never give up on people like me. I dropped out of school and got married at the age of 16. Having children and traveling from one place to another only made my wish of pursuing my education a fantasy. Fortunately, dreams do come true as life is a blank canvas full of hope and opportunities. After completing my plumbing training I wish to pursue a course in motor vehicle mechanics,” she says. “Initially I would be taunted for taking up a ‘male-oriented skill’, but this only strengthened my resolve to be the best plumber.”

Akur (right) at the plumbing workshop

The Uganda country programme of AAH-I, AAH Uganda, is providing vocational skills trainings to both national and refugee communities in Arua and Adjumani districts. This initiative is implemented with funding support from Enabel (Belgian Development Agency) under AAH Uganda’s vocational skills training project. Akur is enrolled in the plumbing class.

“The aim of the project is to enable trainees to acquire demand-driven skills for which they will receive certification. Akur is one of our 270 determined and promising learners. Other students are being trained on welding, motor vehicle and motorcycle repair, electrical installation and hairdressing,” says AAH Uganda Project Field Officer Mpaso Kampanya.

Modern Agricultural Practices Enhancing Self-Reliance

“I fled my homeland empty-handed, uncertain of my children’s future. I never thought vegetable farming would allow me to start a business and provide for my family,” Anna Ogud tells us when we visit her home at the Gorom refugee settlement South Sudan.

Anna left her native country Ethiopia in 2002, where she worked as a traditional birth attendant in her village in Gambella. Anna and her four children fled conflict and walked for 3 days before reaching Pochalla County (Boma State, South Sudan) and being transported to the Gorom Refugee Settlement situated approximately 25 kilometers from the capital city, Juba.

The 55-year-old widow is one of 200 refugee farmers who benefited from a training on modern agricultural practices conducted by Action Africa Help International (AAH-I). The project is implemented with funding support from UNHCR. Project participants also receive agricultural inputs in this livelihoods project.

“The training we received from AAH-I on good agricultural practices was very beneficial. I learnt how to properly handle and dry my kale, okra and nyete (Black-eyed peas leaves) and transport it to the market to reduce post-harvest losses. I also learnt about spacing and weed management and increased my farm’s productivity. I earned USD $150 from my last 3-month harvest of the kale, okra and nyete (Black-eyed peas leaves) which I sold within the settlement. This amount is enough to provide for the basic needs of my family”.

Anna working on her vegetable farm

“I am able to save some money from the sale of vegetables, which I use to buy stock for my new second business – a grocery shop. I often go to Konyo Konyo market in Juba to source for stock for the shop. Three of my children are studying in Uganda with support from UNHCR. The money I get from the shop and the vegetables complements the school fees from UNHCR. I can proudly say that the financial challenges and food insecurity we suffered are now behind us.”

AAH-I South Sudan is implementing a livelihoods project that focuses on the improvement of the livelihoods and self-reliance of refugees at the Gorom refugee settlement. The refugees received maize, sorghum, groundnut and cow-pea seeds and farming tools in February 2018. AAH-I South Sudan will continue to support them throughout the post-harvest season that takes place between the months of October and November.

According to data from UNHCR, there were at least 295,000 refugees in South Sudan as at April 2018. AAH-I is working in 8 out of the original 10 States of the country, running projects in primary health care services, education, water, hygiene & sanitation, capacity building programmes for peace and reintegration as well as food and income security in an aim to empower refugees like Anna, returnees and host communities.

Anna Ogud in her shop

Delivering on the promise to support the youth

In May 2018 the Poultry Club of Ole Nkuya Primary School in Narok County received a grant worth KES 36,000 (approximately USD $360) for the business development of the Poultry Club. The grant was presented to the school by Action Africa Help International’s (AAH-I) Project Officer Caroline Jepchumba.

The grant is part of business support projects under AAH Kenya’s Mara Community Livelihood Improvement Project (MCLIP) project in the Mara Division of Narok County. By supporting improved livelihoods through income generation, access to business services and empowerment of excluded community groups such as women and youth, the objective of MCLIP is to improve the standard of living of communities in Narok West sub-county. MCLIP is funded by Bread for the World.

AAH-I representatives visited the school in July 2018 to monitor the expenditure of the funds. “We used the grant to put up a chicken structure and bought 13 chickens and chicken feed. Their target is 300 chicken, which will see them sell eggs to make income. The eggs will be sold to the school and be fed to young pupils in nursery school and class one to curb malnutrition since the school is a beneficiary of school feeding program,” says the Club’s Patron Mr. Njenga. The Club has 40 members between class 5 and 7.


AAH Kenya business clubSchool Club officials – (L to R) Chairman Alex Kamakia, Treasurer Stanley Nkoyo and Secretary Silantoi Loso


The World Employment Social Outlook: Trends 2018 Report indicates that the number of unemployed in sub-Saharan Africa should increase by 1 million in 2018 due to the region’s high levels of labour force growth. AAH-I is working with different partners to find solutions to youth unemployment. Supporting youth to run businesses and building their entrepreneurship skills through school clubs is one such solution. The business clubs project kicked off in May 2018. Ole Nkuya Primary School is among five schools that have received grants to fund school business clubs.

“Being a pastoralist community, a majority of youth within the Maasai community would not ordinarily rear chicken or consider poultry farming as a viable source of income and nutrition. The project is helping to change these cultural attitudes to improve food and income security. Running the business club is also helping to build life skills, so that the young people can confidently pursue future business undertakings and become job creators,” says Caroline.