Graduating to Resilience

GCR Objective 2: Refugee Self-reliance

Graduating to Resilience

A woman shows off her pineapple harvest

Lydia happily displays her pineapple harvest

The project in brief

Implemented by

AVSI Foundation – Uganda




Project start date: 10/2017

The Graduating to Resilience Activity is ongoing, and it will end on September 30, 2024. The Activity is a pilot program and will not be renewed.


The Activity is a Development Food Security Activity (DFSA) led by AVSI Foundation, together with consortium partners Trickle Up and IMPAQ International. It is a 7-year pilot activity supporting over 13,000 households – half refugees and half host community. Using a woman plus household approach and targeting chronically food insecure households with the capacity to engage in productive activities, AVSI will methodically build confidence, increase capabilities, and change the behavior of women and household members.





Project aims 

Our main goal: Extremely poor refugee and Ugandan households in Kamwenge graduate from conditions of food insecurity and fragile livelihoods to self-reliance and resilience.

  1. Improved Food security and nutrition status of Household members
  2. Improved household economic status
  3. Increased resilience of household members and communities

The Activity is testing three variations of the Graduation Approach to identify the most effective and efficient approach to reach ultra-poor refugee and host community populations. The first cohort ended in June 2021 and the second cohort will begin in January 2022. 

Resources used 

  • Uganda has a regulatory refugee framework that is progressive and aligned with the concept of graduation
  • Refugee and Host Population Empowerment (ReHoPE) strategy that benefits both refugees and the host communities by bridging the gap between humanitarian and development interventions
  • Project funds from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA)


People sitting together having a meeting


Main activities of the Good Practice

  • Coaching: Trained coaches using a structured coaching curriculum deliver different essential topics at home and in groups to participants. Topics include basics on nutrition, infant and young child feeding (IYCF) best practices; WASH practices and practical solutions; Preventative health care; Positive parenting and life skills; gender; climate risk mitigation strategies; rights, linkages, and access to services (especially refugees).
  • Consumption Support: All participants in cohort 1 received a monthly cash transfer via mobile money (dignifying and ensuring safety of delivery) for 12 months to cover the food consumption gap with each household member receiving 5 USD for refugees and 4 USD for host per month. Transferred a total of $1,994,339.18 USD. 85-90% of HHs utilized it for food, 10-15% on scholastic materials, medical expenses.
  • Saving: All participants in cohort 1 were enrolled, trained, and supported to participate in a Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA) groups. Currently the 266 groups have $934,735.56 in savings and $478,7201 loans out, with an average household saving of $167.
  • Asset transfer: Once all participants have met the preparedness criteria (includes full participation in VSLA and training and development of a business plan), then households receive a one-time asset transfer of $300 USD. Participants were encouraged and supported to use as start up for the livelihoods resulting into 96.2 % with more than one source of income (diversified their enterprises).
  • Core Training and Skills: Financial literacy, Livelihoods planning and entrepreneurship, Farmer Field Business School, savings, Market based technical training, and Apprenticeship for youth. This was delivered to all participants.
  • Linkages and referrals: These were made for critical services including health, GBV and protection and linkages were made with the private sector thereby increasing access to market opportunities. 


IMPAQ International 
Trickle Up 

A woman, man and two children smiles to the camera


Challenges and how they were overcome


  1. COVID-19 – the pandemic started halfway through the first cohort. COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the government to mitigate the pandemic delayed and disrupted some activities requiring AVSI to adapt and sometimes leading to higher delivery cost. 
  2. Political elections and related challenges including violence disruption and fears, and country wide shut down of internet by the government – this hindered data collection exercises and participant mobilization as well as participation in some activities. 
  3. Slow adaptation of digitization – Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) digitization process was affected by low digital literacy levels, poor internet connection, COVID-19 affecting physical trainings among others. 

How they were overcome

  1. COVID-19 – AVSI initiated a scenario planning mechanism where contingency plans were put in place and reviewed regularly to adopt to the unpredictable circumstances. This greatly assisted AVSI staff to find solutions in real time and find ways to continue delivering activities. 
  2. Country wide shut down of internet by the government – Activity staff collected data offline and uploaded when the government reinstated the internet.
  3. Slow adaptation of digitization – VSLA groups identified new sitting venues with slightly better network signal strength that enabled them to conduct their saving meetings successfully. The vendor, ENSIBUUKO Ltd, provided weekly data bundles to all the groups to facilitate their meeting resulting into reduced data challenges.

Results of the Good Practice 

  • 73% households graduated out of food insecurity and fragility
  • 266 VSLA groups (133 host and 133 refugees) formed and cumulatively saved 3.46 million Ugandan shillings (934,736 USD)
  • Food security and consumption: households appeared to be food secure as measured by the acceptable Food Consumption Score (FCS)
  • 96.2% of participants reported having more than one source of income
  • Self-efficacy among female participants was reported as high. Female participants indicated that they feel more confident negotiating with their spouse, managing conflict, participating in business and community activities, taking leadership roles within their community, and participating in joint decision-making, particularly around household financial decisions. 


I no longer lack sleep for lack of food. It is a great feeling to see my children go to school.

Jalia, Graduating to Resilience Participant


How the project meets the GCR Objectives

Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries

AVSI is addressing the immediate food insecurity needs in Kamwenge targeting both Refugee and Host communities (50/50) through building confidence, increase capabilities, and facilitating behaviour of participants and their household members. This will improve nutrition, food security, accumulation of assets and income.

Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance

The Activity does work towards enhancing refugee’s self-reliance and resilience. As refugee households envision, plan, and work steadily towards their individual and collective goals, conditions of their lives will improve. Coaches and community-based trainer (CBT) are the driving force boosting household’s progress on a pathway towards graduation and resilience. The Activity has graduated 73% of the targeted households.

Next steps 

The project will not be extended past its closing date, September 30, 2024.

Further support required for the project to continue or scale up

Measuring business functionality, graduation benchmarks – a comparison with other stakeholders.



Submitted by:

Jackie Aldrette, Deputy Secretary General and US Donor Focal Point, AVSI Foundation, USA
Rita Larok, Chief of Party, AVSI Foundation, Uganda

[email protected]