Inclusion and peace among refugees and host communities
The project is implemented by HEKS/EPER Uganda (Swiss Church Aid Uganda) in Uganda. It began in July 2022 and is set to end in June 2024.
HEKS/EPER and CEFORD empower refugees and host communities in Bidibidi to strengthen social cohesion and economic inclusion. Through dialogue, a shared sense of community and joint initiatives, refugees and host communities share resources, work together in mixed groups for agricultural production and participate in village savings and loans schemes. These efforts have fostered social and economic integration between the two groups, strengthening their relationships and contributing to a harmonious living environment.
The aim of the good practice is to improve income and livelihood opportunities as well as to foster peaceful coexistence between refugees and host communities.
Main activities of the Good Practice
- Dialogue and awareness sessions: The project initiates regular dialogue sessions between refugees and host community members to address concerns, promote understanding, and build trust. These sessions aim to reduce tensions, create a shared sense of community, and lay the foundation for peaceful coexistence.
- Mixed group approach for agricultural production: Refugees and host community members come together in Mixed Groups to engage in joint agricultural activities. This approach not only enhances productivity and income but also facilitates cross-cultural interactions and strengthens bonds between the two groups.
- Village Savings and Loan Schemes (VSLAs): Both refugees and host community members participate in VSLAs to access financial services and capital for their livelihood initiatives. VSLAs promote financial inclusion and empower individuals to invest in income-generating activities, further boosting their self-reliance.
- Social integration initiatives: The project actively promotes social integration between refugees and host communities by encouraging activities that facilitate interaction and understanding. These initiatives include cultural exchanges, joint celebrations, and community events to foster a sense of unity and belonging.
- Capacity strengthening: In capacity strengthening sessions participants learn new skills and deepen their knowledge for sustainable livelihoods. Topics covered include agricultural techniques, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, climate resilience and others. All trainings are followed up through direct mentorship and refresher courses on specific subjects as per the needs of each group.
- Conflict mediation and resolution: Trained mediators facilitate conflict resolution processes whenever disputes arise among refugees and host community members. Effective mediation contributes to maintaining peaceful relations and addressing grievances in constructive ways.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice
The presence of favourable policies played a crucial role. In Uganda, the implementation of the “Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework” enables refugees to work and engage in income-generating activities. They can contribute to the local economy and participate in livelihood initiatives, fostering their self-reliance and integration.
Active involvement and buy-in from both refugees and host communities facilitated the mixed group approach, the organization of dialogue sessions and joint initiatives.
Strong local leadership and coordination from community leaders, government officials and partners helped streamline efforts and ensured collaboration.
In addition, HEKS/EPER is implementing a similar project in South Sudan, working with the communities of origin of refugees in Bidibidi settlement. This cross-border intervention provides support to South Sudanese refugees addressing the challenges they face in different contexts whilst creating effective synergies to promote safe and voluntary return and reintegration.
The project has been developed involving local leaders and administration, private sector actors, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), UNHCR and other NGOs.
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
Cultural and language differences between refugees and host communities made effective dialogue and cooperation challenging.
Funding towards the refugee crisis in Uganda has significantly decreased. This is exacerbated by the WFP prioritization process (i.e. reduction of food ratios to refugees in Uganda), posing a major challenge for sustaining the gains made both with refugee and host communities.
While the project facilitated land sharing for agricultural production, unresolved disputes over land rights and usage have been uncovered, leading to conflicts between refugees and host communities.
Gender inequalities and traditional roles within the communities have affected the equal participation of women and men in the project, potentially impacting the effectiveness of interventions.
How they were overcome
Efforts to promote intercultural exchange and provision of language support, such as translation services, have been adopted to facilitate better communication and understanding between refugees and host communities.
Integrating gender mainstreaming strategies into project implementation has helped equal participation and benefits of both women and men.
The project trained peace fora in conflict mediation and resolution and engaged them to address land disputes and other social tensions.
Results of the Good Practice
The project has contributed to the following outcomes:
- Increased income and livelihood opportunities through joint agricultural production in mixed groups,
- Improved access to financial services and capital through participation in Village Savings and Loan Schemes,
- Enhanced social cohesion and peaceful coexistence between refugees and host communities,
- Reduced tensions and conflicts, leading to a harmonious living environment,
- Strengthened social integration, exemplified by intermarriage between refugees and host community members.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
By fostering peaceful coexistence and social integration between refugees and host communities, the project helps reduce tensions and conflicts, thereby easing the pressures on the host country. The joint initiatives and resource-sharing mechanisms create an environment of cooperation and mutual support, minimizing strains on resources and infrastructure in the host community.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
The project empowers refugees and host communities through sustainable livelihood initiatives, such as joint agricultural production and participation in Village Savings and Loan Schemes. It promotes self-reliance among both groups by providing opportunities for refugees and host communities to generate income and sustain themselves.
HEKS/EPER plans to continue and possibly expand the project. This is in response to a continued need at community level to boost resilience in the areas of livelihoods and climate change adaptation. HEKS/EPER will also continue monitoring the situation before and after the South Sudanese general election planned in 2024 which might trigger population movement across the border.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
Investing in research and innovation to help identify new approaches and best practices to address evolving challenges and optimize the project's impact. This may include, e.g., better solutions for land management, such as reforestation vs land clearing or evidence-based water management through a Water Flow Diagram.
Financial support is crucial to sustain the gains made and expand impact to benefit more refugees and host communities. Securing funding from various sources, including donors, governments, and international organizations, would be essential.