Greenhouse farming changes lives in Oruchinga Refugee settlement

Promoting climate resilient refugee communities

Niyorugira Pascasin a member of Twitezi Imbere group checks on the tomatoes in the group’s greenhouse. (Photo credit: UNDPUganda/Natsuki 2018).

Oruchinga, Isingiro district — It’s the middle of harvest season and Oruchinga Refugee Settlement in Western Uganda is buzzing with activity.

A group of refugee farmers are filling a big plastic tub with freshly harvested onions from their green house. Eggplants, peppers and spinach will be harvested soon after.

The vegetables and tub belong to members of Twitezi Imbere group, one of the various greenhouse groups established within the settlement through UNDP’s ‘Climate Resilient Livelihoods Project.’

The project was implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in cooperation with the Humanitarian Initiative Just Relief Aid (HIJRA), as part of efforts to promote climate resilient livelihoods in the settlement where the environment has been heavily degraded by the large number of refugees.

“Just last month, we got a good harvest of cabbages which we sold to restaurants and hotels,” Niyorugira Pascasin, a refugee from Burundi who is also the group’s treasurer says with a smile.

The Twitezi Imbere group is comprised of 30 members; 24 refugees and 6 host community members, 18 females and 12 males. The refugees are from various countries including Burundi, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Group members work together to plant, harvest and also learn new methods of farming. This has increased their harvest and made it easier for them to sell their produce at markets both within and outside the settlement.

Niyorugira, who has been working as the group treasurer for 2 years manages the group’s finances and also finds the market for their produce.

“When I had just arrived, I was doing backyard gardening but was not earning much from it. Now with the shared work, knowledge and savings, each group member is able to receive 10,000 Uganda Shillings (approximately USD2.6) every week,” Niyorugira says.

(Photo credit: UNDPUganda/Natsuki 2018)

Another greenhouse group, Tubandane group, has earned 7,080,000 Uganda Shilling (approximately USD 1,850) in total sales this season. To diversify their income sources, the group used some of its earnings to buy a cow, whose droppings are being used as manure in their greenhouse garden.

The group also has a Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) component where members can borrow and save money.

“Through our savings from the group, we are paying school fees for two of our children to go to secondary school,” Christopher Rwasa, the team leader of the group proudly says, adding that growing vegetables has enabled their families to eat healthy.

Members of Tubandane greenhouse group wave in front of their green house. 26 members out of its 30 members are women. (Photo credit: UNDPUganda/Natsuki 2018).

This UNDP initiative started in 2016 as a pilot project under the Sweden-funded global Integrated Climate Risk Management Programme (ICRMP). Given its initial success, UNDP implemented a second phase running from October 2017 to February 2018, under its Emergency Response and Resilience Strategy for Refugees and Host Communities Project.

(Photo credit: UNDPUganda/Natsuki 2018).

In addition to the assistance to the groups, the project also supports individual farmers to practise backyard gardening. One such farmer is Emmanuel Jamari (pictured left), a refugee from Rwanda who arrived in Uganda 17 years ago. He grows various vegetables including cabbages, hot peppers, maize, carrots, and tomatoes in his backyard garden.

Through the project support, he has seen the harvest from garden increases 30-fold from previous years. Using his knowledge from the project, Jamari now trains his neighbours on vegetable growing. He is considered a key resource person in this area by both refugees and the nationals.

Over the two years of its implementation, the project has reached a total of 615 refugees and host communities members. Most of these self-reliant groups are functioning as VSLAs at the same time. Some of its key achievements include;

Above are some members of the greenbelt management committee — The group has planted 2000 trees and patrols the Lake Rwamurunga area to protect the young trees from grazing animals. (Photo credit: UNDPUganda/Natsuki 2018).
  • Establishment of a greenbelt which is maintained by 9 member management committee member to protect the shores of Lake Rwamurunga from soil erosion;
  • 150 community members supported and trained in green house management;
  • 350 community members supported to improve backyard gardening;
  • 34 youth in an income generating activity (IGA) groups supported to carry out pig breeding;
  • Establishment of fish cage farming in Lake Rwamurunga, maintained by trained 55 community members.
Shallotte Bayenda, a Congolese refugee makes soap using her savings from her fish caging group’s Voluntary Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). The soap bars are sold in markets, providing her up to 600,000 UGX profit per week. (Photo credit: UNDPUganda/Natsuki 2018).

The support provided has benefited both refugees and host communities members, encouraging them to protect their environment all the while improving their live hoods.

About Refugees in Uganda

Since getting its independence in 1962, Uganda has long accepted refugees and asylum seekers within its borders. After the outbreak of conflict in neighbouring South Sudan in 2013 and recent fresh influx from DRC, Uganda has been experiencing increasing numbers of refugees making it one of the largest refugee hosting countries in Africa with over a million refugees.

Displacement is a long term issue which requires long-term solutions, especially in Uganda where refugees are settled within communities, as opposed to camps, and enjoy access to services and freedom of movement, like in Oruchinga Refugee settlement.

Text & Photos by: Natsuki Matsumoto. Edited by: Doreen Kansiime, UNDP Uganda

UNDP Uganda is part of the global network to empower lives and build resilient nations. In Uganda, we work with Government and other actors to eliminate poverty, inequality & exclusion to achieve sustainable development. To learn more about us, please visit: