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A group of women and a man stack groundnuts into 27 white
sisal sacks in the small compound. The groundnuts had been put out to dry – a
necessary stage in the post-harvest handling process that will prevent them from
being affected by mould while in storage.
This is the home of Akiit Deng Garang, a South Sudanese refugee staying in Ayilo II refugee resettlement in Adjumani, Northern Uganda.
A widowed mother of six, Garang fled her home in South Sudan in 2014 due to war and was resettled in Ayilo II. She is now the group leader of the farmers’ group that has harvested the 27 bags of groundnuts.
The group, which goes by the Dinka name Domwokok, comprises 26 members, only two of whom are men. Most of the women are widows or living on their own in Uganda, their husbands having stayed behind in South Sudan.
It partly explains why when the Danish Refugee Council mobilised the Ayilo II community to form farmers’ groups that they would work with on an agricultural programme, there was little hesitation in this community.
“Working together in a group is good because it unites us,” says Garang. “More importantly, it enables us to work for our families’ welfare together. We support each other.”
Under the European Union Emergency Trust Fund’s Support Programme for Refugee Settlements in Northern Uganda, the Danish Refugee Council operates a livelihood programme aimed at enabling refugees and Ugandans from the host communities to achieve home-based food security and income.
The Danish Refugee Council does this through offering agricultural and financial literacy training to communities as well as farm inputs that include seeds, hoes and pangas.
“After training us, Danish Refugee Council gave us five sacks of groundnuts which we planted on a five-acre piece of land,” says Garang. “We have now harvested 27 bags out of that, and we are very happy.”
Each refugee in Uganda is offered a small plot of land for setting up a shelter and carrying out gardening. However, Domwokok group needed a large piece of land, and they were lucky to get offered five acres, free of charge, by a Ugandan landlord.
To enable refugees get land for agriculture, the Danish Refugee Council reaches out to the local Ugandan community which owns most of the land in the area and requests landlords to free up some land on which the refugees can farm. Danish Refugee Council tries to make this acceptable by involving the local Ugandan population in its activities, something that helps to foster peaceful co-existence between the refugees and their hosts.
So now that the harvest is in, what next for Domwokok group? “We will sell off 17 bags and keep the rest for re-planting,” says Garang. Having realised that groundnuts can withstand the largely dry weather in Adjumani, the group hopes to capitalise on that and expand production.
Sticking to groundnuts may take away their worries about the weather, but may not solve some of the other challenges the group faced in the first season. “The soil here is mostly rocky – it is hard, dry and not fertile,” Garang explains. “It is also infested with termites which attack the crops.”
Nevertheless, the group has a lot to look forward to. Groundnuts are marketable in the region, as they are one of the staple foods. A 100kg sack costs about UGX100,000 (USD28). In addition, it is hoped that the group will become a supplier of groundnut seeds to other farmers, as well as the Danish Refugee Council itself.
Domwokok Group is confident that they have the financial skills to manage the proceeds from the sale of their current harvest as well as those that will come in the future. “We have received training in financial management, records keeping and saving,” chips in Nyanyok Dupel, a member of the group.
The group actually has a financial arm, too, in the form of a village savings and loans association through which each group member saves some money per week. They have so far saved UGX3,590,000 (USD997), which members are free to borrow and return at a low interest.
The Danish Refugee Council works with 244 such groups in Adjumani district, made up of both refugees and Ugandans. In Yumbe, another district hosting refugees, the organization works with 234 groups.