South Sudanese refugees who started to settle in Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in Uganda in 2016 are constantly on the lookout for opportunities that may provide a stepping stone to a sustainable livelihood.
The Bidibidi settlement, located in Yumbe District, is the largest in Uganda with a population of 233,959 reported at the end of 2020. The settlement is separated into five zones, further divided into villages where South Sudanese refugees are planting new roots. Residents there continue to struggle to access sufficient food, arable land, jobs or skills-building opportunities—and long for the financial, social and physical assets that are key to resilience.
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the challenges faced by the refugee community, as many rely on daily work, such as petty trade and subsistence agriculture. But, these activities have been limited by the Government of Uganda during the health pandemic.
CRS has implemented emergency recovery projects aimed at helping refugees in Bidibidi improve their livelihood options and opportunities. The project took place from 2017 - 2019, with funding from the United States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and Latter-Day Saints Charities (LDSC). Activities promoted the development of marketable skills, building capacity in farming techniques, and strengthening financial education and stability though Savings and Internal Lending Communities (SILC).
Building on lessons from these projects, and incorporating CRS’ experience with business skills training in diverse contexts across the world, CRS Uganda launched a livelihoods project in 2020 that piloted a newly developed Business Skills Toolkit designed specifically for refugee populations. Funded by the Latter-day Saints Charity (LDSC), the Business Skills Toolkit training concluded with the awarding of business grants to successful applicants based on the business plans they developed as part of the curriculum.
This learning paper documents the lessons learned while implementing the Business Skills Training and grant transfer process throughout 2020. The Lessons Learned focuses on the perspective of participants and those responsible for project implementation, with the goal of identifying practical recommendations to improve the quality of future projects.