MCHN+ agricultural interventions improving livelihoods and nutrition of refugees

By Nowe Josephine Mpambara, Nutrition Assistant, KRC Uganda.

Photo: Sifa, her husband and the agronomist during one of the support visits to her garden.

Uganda hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa. Accordingly, the poverty rate for the refugee population is higher than for the host communities. Fifty one percent (51%) of refugees are considered poor). Over the years, food rations from the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) have been reducing. In 2021, WFP announced 40 percent reduction due to funding shortages and predicted further aid cuts in the future. Reduction in food aid to refugees directly compromises their nutrition status, and more so to vulnerable groups such as lactating, pregnant women and children.

In response to this challenge, KRC Uganda in partnership with Save the Children International is implementing the nutrition MCHN+[1] project in Kyaka II refugee settlement with the major objective of improving the nutrition status of lactating mothers, pregnant women and their children at the same time improving household income of the members. Some of the strategies to achieve this goal include supporting care groups and neighbor groups to grow vegetables and rear small ruminant animals like rabbits and guinea pigs.

Sifa Hasira, 41 and a mother of five is a care group leader and beneficiary of the MCHN+ project hailing from Kakoni A village, Kakoni Zone

Sifa testifies about the impact vegetable growing has had on her and her family member who provide family labor. Besides farming, her and her husband have been able to forge a living and take their children to school using the money earned from their produce as well as feeding on the farm produce. This has greatly improved and kept their nutrition statuses at its best. The money earned after doing sales also supplements to their monthly allowances from WFP which makes the family less dependent on this monthly allowance. She has been able to buy poultry as well from her savings that she rears aside her vegetable farm to integrate vegetable farming with animal rearing hence diversifying her household income and dietary choices.

My husband and I harvest the vegetables, pack them in polythene bags and sell at 500 Ugandan shillings each. My husband then moves around to the neighbors and to the market selling these vegetables. We also harvest vegetables for home consumption whenever need arises. My family and I no longer have certain diseases for example malnutrition like we used to before. Our lives have greatly improved.”  Sifa narrates.

However, there is no good situation without challenges. Sifa had a major problem of a viral disease that was affecting her crops. Nevertheless, smallholder farmers must overcome considerable constraints in order to succeed. Together with the agronomist, the Nutrition team recommended and gave her an antiviral to use on her crops. She was also advised to use crop rotation so as to break the cycle of the virus propagation in the soil dies as she awaits the next season. The team was able to find a great improvement on her farm after using the antiviral.

In conclusion, this program has had a great impact on the beneficiaries. It is a great self-sustainable innovation that will eventually enable development of the refugees both in monetary and heath ways.

[1] Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition (MCHN) activities are designed to improve maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) and nutrition outcomes

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