Seeds of hope: Skilling youth in Agri-business for a better future

A consortium of three organizations, ICCO Cooperation, ZOA and War Child, has started an innovative approach for youth to improve their social and economic wellbeing through psychosocial and livelihoods support in Africa’s biggest refugee settlement, Bidi bidi.

The project “Agri-business Skilling for Youth in a Refugee context” (ABSYR) started at the beginning of the year 2018 and will last for 3 years. Agriculture is a backbone for livelihoods in Northern Uganda.

"We want to tackle youth employment with this project by empowering them to employ themselves. We are targeting a total of 5,000 young people. We have 1375 participants for the first training. They get training around twice a week, 2 hours on a time", tells project’s Coordinator Francis Owili Okun.

Life as a refugee in Bidi bidi

Most refugees come from South Sudan, escaping the war and conflicts that erupted in 2016. It is also the case of 20 years old Lawrence Martin. His life took a dramatic turn a few years back when his parents were killed and he had to flee. He has been living in the settlement for two years with his four sisters, two brothers and their stepmother.

"Having finished my secondary school, I was studying advanced studies in procurement and logistics management in Uganda and didn’t see my family often who lived in South Sudan. When I went to visit them, the violence broke and the rebels killed my father. Sometimes the son of the killed father is also targeted, in afraid of son’s revenge, so we left Sudan", Lawrence explains.

Lawrence’s family came to seek safer place 80 miles south, across the border, in Bidi bidi Uganda. After the death of his parents and older brother, Lawrence is now the head of the family.

"Normally when I wake up, I clean a bit, hang out with my friends, and check sesame in my garden. I am responsible for my family so I follow up with my siblings. Now I also attend training on a weekly basis".

Because many youths have grown in conflict areas, most of them have traumatized past. The consortium divides different skills training, War Child’s part is to give them life skills so they are equipped to face challenges, be inspired and successful in their personal and professional life. ZOA will train the youth in Emergency Enabling Rural Innovations (EERI) methodology and Village Savings Loan Association and ICCO will take the lead to involve the youth in different agri-business opportunities.

" I hope that at the end of the project, my life is better. Now it is hard, not comparable to the life I had before with my family. My objective is to support my family and the community. If I can develop a business, I will be able to meet our needs", says Laurence.

Motivated participants

Bidi bidi used to be a small village before welcoming refugee settlement and many Ugandans still live there, and they are referred as “the host community”. The ABSYR is reaching to them as well; the program is targeting equally locals and refugees, age from 18 to 30 years.

A Ugandan girl Scovia and her brother have been living with their grandmother since the death of their parents, 5 years ago. Due to lack of means, she dropped out of school. Now she got a chance to attend the new training.

"I want to become a businesswoman because I need to make money to support myself and my family. In the training, we are getting many different skills such as how to live and work with others. I am looking forward getting more knowledge. I think girls should go to school to get an education and skills, in order to support themselves", Scovia explains.

From these 5,000 youth, 20% will also receive additional advanced business support and entrepreneurial skills and so they can form small businesses in various agricultural value chains.