Can farming help solve the refugee crises in Uganda?

Photo: Kate Holt/ Arete/ Opportunity International UK

Uganda hosts Africa’s largest refugee population with over 1.4 million people living across 14 settlements. Its progressive refugee policy upholds a refugee’s right to move freely, work, own property, resettle and access land and basic services. Yet refugees face many challenges. They may receive a plot of land when they arrive at a refugee settlement but they often lack access to financial services, training and support and are isolated from local markets.

Opportunity International’s most recent and innovative project is working with refugees in Uganda. To date, the charity has enabled over 5,000 refugees to access financial literacy and developed refugee-specific finance products. Refugees can move from dependency to self-reliance, building their own businesses.

Opportunity International, have over 50 years’ of experience helping people to work their way out of poverty through access to financial products and training. The charity believes that one key way to support refugees is through Agricultural Finance. Agricultural training, paired with business skills and tailored financial products, can enable refugees to build sustainable livelihoods as well as help them feed their family.


Photo: Kate Holt/ Arete/ Opportunity International UK

1. Increase Smallholder Farmer Profitability, well-being and resilience.

· Improve farm performance e.g: production, Good Agricultural Practices

· Increase inclusion of under-represented community and family members

· Improve market conditions

2. Increase Micro, Small and Medium Agribusiness capacity and inclusivity

· Improve business practices and linkages to Financial Institutions. With business practices that include women and increase innovation.

3. Financially-Sustainable, inclusive, and dynamic Agriculture Finance Portfolio for Financial Service Providers

· Increased portfolio and outreach

· Increased operational efficiency i.e. sustainability to deliver Agriculture Finance products

· Inclusive business practices and innovations


Africa’s oldest and most established refugee settlement Nakivale is in southern Uganda. Home to 140,000 people seeking safety and security. Odete arrived at Nakivale from Burundi with her five children in 2010.

“There was insecurity, and my husband was killed when people came in police clothes to our house. After that attack, I decided to leave. I thought I was going to be killed.”

Odete walked with her children to the Rwandan border, where she met a family who cared for them for a month. They paid for her to get a bus to safety at Nakivale.

“It was very hard — I didn’t know anyone or the language. I have been living here for 11 years. I now have five children. My hope for the future is to pay my children’s school fees and ensure a good life for them.

I sell farm produce, like vegetable, green peppers, basil, spinach and beans that I have grown. But with this rain, the farming stopped. All the vegetables I had planted were affected by the heavy rain and haven’t grown. I am still growing a bit, but what I grow, I cook. If I had capital, I would set up a small retail shop to sell rice, beans sugar, oil and charcoal.

It isn’t easy for people like me to borrow money to set up businesses. Because it is hard for people to trust you. The banks need some form of a guarantee before they will lend you anything.

I am part of a savings group now. Every week I save 20p. When I was farming, it was easy for me to save this amount because I was growing and selling, but now I am struggling to save. If I get my food distribution, I try to sell some of that so I can save. It is hard.”

Two years later and Odete is now saving £2 every week. Through Opportunity International financial literacy sessions Odete has applied for a loan to open a new garden. She is now growing more vegetables.

Photo: Kate Holt/ Arete/ Opportunity International UK

Growing more produce won’t solve Africa’s refugee crises. But, the impact of Opportunity International’s Agriculture Finance work is already proving itself. Thousands of people benefit from training and loans in the countries we work in, including: Uganda, Ghana, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In the future we hope to see more refugees engage with Agriculture Finance, stimulating demand for formal financial products and services. We encourage agro-dealers to work alongside refugees — to recognise their skills, ideas and potential. Because, as more people are empowered with financial training and access to finance products, like savings groups and loans, we see women and men grow in confidence; mothers employing their neighbours; family businesses growing and more children attending school. We’re starting to see people farm their way out of poverty.

Opportunity International UK

Opportunity International serve hardworking, inspiring entrepreneurs around the world. Our clients are women and men with ambitious dreams who need an opportunity to thrive. We provide access to loans, savings, insurance and training. Tools that empower people to work their way out of poverty. We provide a hand up, not a handout.

Read more about Opportunity International UK’s work and follow our social media channels to meet more of our clients like Odete.




Opportunity International is working to end global poverty by providing a hand up, not a handout. #HandUpNotHandout

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Opportunity International UK

Opportunity International UK

Opportunity International is working to end global poverty by providing a hand up, not a handout. #HandUpNotHandout

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