Building livelihoods and unlocking market opportunities for refugees and hosts

Building livelihoods and unlocking market opportunities for refugees and hosts

Two ladies shop at a market stall

Artisans in Dadaab.

Contact details

Submitted by: 

Neil Turner, Country Director - NRC Kenya and Tanzania 

Ashish Shah, Director, Division of Country Programmes, ITC  

International Trade Centre (UN agency) 

Norwegian Refugee Council (NGO) 


[email protected] 

[email protected] 




Introduction to the project




2017 - 2019

A second phase of the project in Dadaab is entering implementation, while the project is being scaled and adapted to Kakuma in Kenya, and beyond. The RESI model has also been scaled to Gaza and Jordan. 


The project aims to enhance sustainable livelihood for refugee and host communities to promote self-sufficiency and increase resilience. To achieve this, the project has focused on enhancing skills for employability and self-employment as well as enhancing capacity of youth and women-run self-help groups to engage with market opportunities and further helping them build business opportunities. 


  • Government of the Netherlands (donor country government) 
  • Government of Japan (donor country government) 
  • Afrika Handmade (private actor) 
  • Goodie's Interiors and Gifts (private actor) 
  • Samasource (private actor) 
  • Tosheka Textiles (private actor) 
  • UNHCR Dadaab, Kenya (UN agency, Dadaab camp manager) 
A group of people work at laptop computers at a table.

Results of the Good Practice

Online Freelancing: 

  • 83 refugees and hosts (all youths) graduated a training program delivered by Samasource 

  • 70 joined the Dadaab Online Freelancing Agency, formed during the project 

  • In partnership with Upwork, freelancers accessed Upwork’s online work platform  

  • The agency earned approximately $6,000 during the project period and remains active 

Home Décor: 

  • Five artisan groups were organized into the Nyota Farsamo Collective, comprising 50 refugees and hosts (48 women) 

  • Artisans received training by Tosheka Textiles 

  • Nyota Farsamo gained buyers in Dadaab, Nairobi, Canada, and the USA, via artisanal companies 

  • The collective earned over $3000 during the project period and remains active 

Main activities of the Good Practice


  • Financial 
  • Material 
  • Technical 


Security was a substantial challenge during project implementation, creating delays in activities despite NRC security expertise and understanding of the local situation. 

Host community engagement was key as various actors hold significant influence in negotiations, which may delay or complicate delivery.  

A prevailing aid dependency mentality in Dadaab emphasized the need for ensuring participant commitment and motivation.  

Identification documentation and access to payment solutions was a key challenge.  

Ensuring consistent quality in training delivered can be difficult in the fragile environment.  

Overcoming challenges

NRC enabled relevant actors’ access to the refugee camp and mitigated project level impact by including flexibility into activity planning. 

To address engagement with the host community, inclusion is a key guiding principle in the RESI framework. This required regular and consistent communication with government authorities, involvement of host representatives, and a participant group of both refugees and host community members. As such, the project provided benefits to the host community as recommended in the Global Compact. 

To address the issue of aid dependency, complementary support was provided throughout the project through a mentorship program and the empowerment of soft skills like personal motivation. In addition, RESI avoided direct hand-outs, instead focusing on resources to encourage engagement, such as co-working spaces and internet. 

The project negotiated with online work platforms for the acceptance of refugee alien cards as ID and to find alternative payment options that complied with legislation.  

To ensure quality training, a Trainers of Trainers program was implemented to build capacity among local staff and participants, which demonstrated efficiency and considerable transfer of knowledge. 

Next steps

RESI will pursue a second phase of work in Dadaab to continue until 2022, focusing on building technical capacities, developing additional market linkages, and delivering mentorship and networking activities to further develop participants’ skills and connect the collectives to new clients locally and internationally. 

The project is also being implemented and adapted to the refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, focusing on targeted higher-level online freelancing skills for participants that already have acquired strong technical skills.