Helping refugees become farmers in one of Africa’s largest refugee complexes

Deko Boray Sagar, a mother of six, said, “In the past, my children were malnourished because of poor food varieties. Since I started growing vegetables and fruits, I have been able to feed my children a more nutritious diet. This is one of the greatest benefits of this project, and I’m grateful for this support.”

Man drives a red tractor, which pulls a tilling implement behind it
December 17, 2020 by AGCO

Helping refugees become farmers in one of Africa’s largest refugee complexes

Deko Boray Sagar, a mother of six, said, “In the past, my children were malnourished because of poor food varieties. Since I started growing vegetables and fruits, I have been able to feed my children a more nutritious diet. This is one of the greatest benefits of this project, and I’m grateful for this support.”

Progress report from the AGCO Agriculture Foundation and the Kenya Red Cross Society

At the beginning of 2020, the AGCO Agriculture Foundation (AAF) announced a partnership with the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) to pilot an initiative that will assist in meeting agricultural and nutritional demands in the Dadaab IFO 2 camp.

This month, the AAF hosted a virtual meeting with its partners at KRCS and farmers from the Dadaab refugee complex to check in on the pivot farm project and discuss the progress made so far. Leaving no one behind means ensuring marginalized farmers have access to the internet and can participate in virtual meetings during the coronavirus pandemic. So the AAF used a virtual townhall approach for farmers to provide their feedback on the program and suggestions for support mechanisms to implement for the farm project and agricultural activities.

A group of men and women stand in a circle wearing masks, one holding a laptop

Refugee farmers meet with the project leaders from the Kenya Red Cross Society

The Dadaab Refugee Complex is located within the expansive Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASAL) of Kenya, with hot, dry weather and high levels of evapotranspiration, the process of evaporating water from leaves through plant transpiration. The camp is home to a combined population of 240,000 people as of mid-2020. The majority of these refugees are from the Somali region and fled violence, hunger and drought, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Turning refugees into farmers at the sustainable pivot farm project

In 2019, AAF began a pilot with the pivot farm and has since supported the IFO 2 refugee camp to build resilient food systems. This program helps strengthen the livelihoods of the refugees and their local host community through sustainable agriculture initiatives.

Farukh Keter, the project lead for the KRCS IFO 2 Camp, said the funding and partnership support received from AAF is assisting with the implementation and daily operations of the pivot farm and horticultural project.

“We have been able to intensify our work with the refugees and host community. Thereby, promoting a conservative approach to pasture production for livestock feeding, facilitating modern farming practices through mechanized irrigation systems and planting horticultural and soil cover crops to reduce evaporation and establishment of more greenbelts,” Keter said.

“After our initial experimentation with alfalfa grass, we have now expanded to planting fodder crop, also called Sudan grass, as an alternative livestock feed for refugees who are pastoralists,” adds Victor Kiprotich, KRCS Agronomist.

Two men use hand tools to till soil while another looks on.

Refugees from the Dadaab Refugee Complex use hand tools to work the soil.

“Also, with the changing climate, we are engaging the refugees and the host community to plant high-value crops such as watermelon, green pepper, hot peppers, tomatoes, sukuma, onions, okra, spinach and cowpeas. This will allow them to improve their diets while fixing soil nitrogen and enhancing the soil with high-quality organic matter,” Kiprotich said.

Addressing hunger and boosting economic outcomes

Specific impacts have been recorded on the food and nutrition security and livelihood support within the camp and host communities. During our virtual conversations, the farmers shared four ways the sustainable farming project is helping them address hunger and malnutrition:

  1. Boosting food production for food access

Food insecurity is one of the greatest threats to refugees’ survival. Prior to the pandemic, refugees were at risk of hunger and poor nutrition. The sustainable farming project has not only enabled the refugees to grow their own food, but also create an alternative source of income. Ahmed Kayac Dacar, one of the female beneficiaries in the Dadaab camp, shared that “before the project started, we usually bought fruits and vegetables from the market. Now, we are able to grow our own vegetables and fruits for household consumption and also use the remaining proceeds to buy food items and school uniforms for the children.”

  1. Improving nutrition and health

The prevalence of malnutrition among the refugees is one of the reasons the project diversified beyond fodder grass to other crops such as vegetables and legumes. This improves nutrition for refugees and host communities to build better resilience against diseases and infections. Deko Boray Sagar, a mother of six, said, “In the past, my children were malnourished because of poor food varieties. Since I started growing vegetables and fruits, I have been able to feed my children a more nutritious diet. This is one of the greatest benefits of this project, and I’m grateful for this support.”

Red soil with moisture, pivot irrigation system

The sustainable pivot farm at the Dadaab Refugee Complex

  1. Learning sustainable farming and mechanization

Through this project, the KRCS has trained a number of refugees and host communities on modern farming practices and equipment handling. Many farmers are now able to grow different crops. “Before now, I didn’t have any knowledge about farming. Due to the training and farm demonstrations, I have acquired relevant knowledge and skills on how to prepare the land and plant seeds at the right spacing. The pivot farm has also enhanced my understanding of various irrigation systems, application of fertilizers and good agronomic practices,” said Abdi Ahmed Hire.

  1. Improving income and creating employment opportunities

A key focus of this project is to support the economic livelihood of the refugees as well as the host community. Mahad Abdi Aden, one of the beneficiaries from the host community, noted that “the project has created employment opportunities for the community and the refugees. Beyond this project, I am confident that I can now establish my own farm and grow different crops.”

Overall, the feedback from the first year of this project has been very encouraging, with great results for refugees and host communities. With phase two of the project starting in 2021, AAF will continue to work with KRCS to address complex challenges in the Dadaab refugee camp and deepen our support for the refugees and local community.

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