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How to make markets work for refugees in the world's largest refugee camp

NUTEC MD is a Palladium-managed component of a UK government-funded agribusiness development programme. It is piloting approaches that use the power of the market to promote livelihoods for refugees and the communities that host them.

Photo credit: Trocaire

In Uganda, the Bidi Bidi settlement hosts over 270,000 refugees--making it the world’s largest refugee camp. Filippo Grandi, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, stated that Uganda was now “at breaking point.”

The settlement is located in a remote area of North-Western Uganda, where there are limited economic opportunities for refugees living within host communities. The refugee-hosting communities already face a precarious food situation and have a high level of poverty.

Palladium, in partnership with Swisscontact, is working with Mercy Corps to demonstrate that a market-based approach can incentivise input suppliers, agro-dealers and other market actors to do business with each other. This pilot project leverages private sector investment to provide inputs to farmers, buy produce in bulk and provide post-harvest handling training to farmers so that they can make effective use of land and earn an income.

To overcome the missing linkage between input suppliers, agro-dealers and farmers, the programme uses cash-based incentive schemes (such as e-vouchers) to promote the use of improved, high-yielding seeds by refugees and host communities. In order to implement this, Palladium and Mercy Corps are working with businesses to develop a ‘last mile’ seed distribution model to improve farmers’ and refugees’ access to input supplies.

Facilitating the link between farmers and cash crop bulk buyers ensures better prices are paid, thereby increasing farmers’ incomes. These bulk buyer arrangements enable primary processors such as grain millers to reduce their transaction costs, thus improving business profitability.

The pilot project in the Bidi Bidi settlement and the refugee-hosting communities tests how strengthening the market system can help refugees regain their livelihoods and create higher incomes for host communities.

On 2 October, NUTEC and Propcom Mai-karfi (another Palladium market systems programme), will present their learning and experiences of working with refugee populations at The SEEP Annual Conference. Under the conference theme ‘Catalysing Transformative Change’, Palladium together with Swisscontact will run a peer learning session about ‘Making Markets Work for Refugee Resilience’ . Registration is still open.