Enhancing Economic Opportunities for the Vulnerable in LRA-Affected Areas

The World Bank’s Transitional Demobilization and Reintegration Program (TDRP) supported thousands of conflict-affected and vulnerable people in areas of Central Africa ravaged by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict. The pilot project ‘Consolidation of Peace through Empowering Socio-economic Associations’ responded to the urgent needs of the most affected communities with significant results.

It is widely believed that the LRA has fragmented into several highly-mobile groups operating across a wide area in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan. While the national security forces of DRC, CAR, and South Sudan have significantly reduced the LRA’s strength and operational capacity, the group continues to pose a serious security threat to civilians.

Displacements, sexual violence, forced marriage, mutilations, looting, property destruction, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are among the commonly reported incidents from the region. LRA-affected areas also suffer from destroyed markets, limited economic activity and very limited movement of commercial goods, especially in CAR. In the DRC, assessments identified the need for targeting young adults to gain access to existing post-conflict opportunities, in particular value-adding technology and access to markets and financial services. CAR has seen an influx of refugees from DRC and a wave of internal displacement due to heightened LRA activity. In Northern Uganda, research identified the need for targeting women to expand the scale of their businesses as they are at the forefront of Northern Uganda’s economic recovery.

Consolidation of Peace through Socio-economic Associations:

With Consolidation of Peace through Empowering Socio-economic Associations Project- a pilot program managed by the Fragile States, Conflict & Social Development Unit’s (AFTCS) Transitional Demobilization and Reintegration Program (TDRP) – the World Bank responded to the needs of the most affected communities with significant results. The project’s target areas – the province Orientale in the DRC, the Haut Mbomou Province in CAR, and Gulu, Kitgum and Pader provinces in Uganda – were determined by a needs assessment. The effort represents a regional approach towards supporting conflict-affected and vulnerable community members to become more economically secure and socially networked. The project had around 15,000 direct beneficiaries and over 36,000 indirect beneficiaries.

Women, the displaced, and youth are among vulnerable populations often most adversely affected during times of crisis. Vulnerable groups have a unique capacity to enhance the affected population’s coping ability during times of crisis in fragile contexts. Capitalizing on the spirit of cooperation can significantly foster economic growth at the community level. Therefore, the project targeted 211 associations that brought together people constrained by similar difficulties and possessed members with the desire to work towards achieving common socio-economic goals.

The project provided training on a range of topics that were tailored to the associations’ economic activities, in-kind kits and capital, and follow-up advisory services to the selected associations. This allowed beneficiaries the flexibility of choosing a time for training and mentorship most convenient to them as well as eliminated travel time and costs. The project also provided psychosocial support in DRC and CAR with the recognition that a failure to address the high prevalence of psychosocial issues among beneficiaries may impede the achievement of project goals.

Of the 50 associations targeted in DRC (with 1,017 beneficiaries), 60% were agricultural and 40% were small businesses such as sewing, masonry, soap making, and baking. Among the beneficiaries, 302 trauma cases were identified. In CAR, 61 associations (with 12,150 beneficiaries) were selected in the fields of agriculture, livestock, sewing, soap making, fish breeding, carpentry, craft, and mechanics, while 70 psychosocial victims were identified. In Uganda, 100 economic associations (approximately 2,600 direct beneficiaries) with majority female members were selected in the fields of agriculture and petty trade.

At the end of the project’s 11-month implementation period, pilot project beneficiaries have increased access to livelihood opportunities with greater access to external finance and credit, more productive and diversified activities as well as enhanced income. Further, strengthening socio-economic activities of associations has contributed to greater social cohesion in targeted communities as well as reduced stigma in the community towards the displaced and traumatized, especially in Northern Uganda.

In Uganda, the project successfully helped all groups to formally register at the sub-county level. Beneficiaries were able to look to their community members for support, possess stronger socio-economic networks, and report inclusive efforts to support vulnerable members of the community (raising funds, digging their land, contributing assets etc.) compared to those not participating in the project. Their average monthly income increased to USD $48 from the baseline of USD $38. The average amount saved by beneficiaries increased from USD $20 a month to USD $53.

In DRC, beneficiaries reported higher income levels, increased ownership of productive assets and diversified sources of income as well as increased access to external finance opportunities including use of village and savings associations. The average monthly income of beneficiaries increased to USD $157 from the baseline of USD $65 and 80% of the beneficiaries reported saving an average of USD $12 a month. It was, however, observed in DRC that beneficiaries give higher importance to creating revenue rather than social participation with the project’s social cohesion advances disrupted by the insecurity in Dungu.

Owing to security constraints, it was not possible to carry out an independent evaluation in CAR; but all project activities were successfully implemented. 44% of the direct beneficiaries in CAR were female and 60% of the associations are now officially recognized by local authorities. A formal recognition at the sub-prefecture level in CAR allows associations’ formal access to micro credit. As a result of the project’s support including training to 12 associations on animal husbandry and 33 associations on post-harvest management and agricultural production techniques, agricultural production and productivity were particularly enhanced and significantly improved beneficiaries’ food security.

The pilot program’s psychosocial support activities have had a positive impact as well. Promising trends were recorded on the extent and incidence of beneficiaries’ anxiety and depression symptoms. At the end of the project, beneficiaries were more likely to report that their socio-economic association is an important coping mechanism than those not receiving psychosocial services.

The TDRP is now looking forward to scaling up the pilot project to more areas in countries affected by LRA activities as well as expanding support to the pilot’s beneficiary socio-economic associations. To learn more about the project, please visit http://www.tdrp.net/en/news_120113.php