The Local Government Minister Raphael Magyezi has lauded the integration of South Sudanese refugees and the host communities in Adjumani for undertaking communal farming to boost food security.
Selected refugee groups are currently participating in communal farming with host members in the two sub counties of Dzaipi and Ukusijoni through a pilot initiative being supported by Action Against Hunger-Uganda (ACF), a non-governmental organization.
The refugees from Pagirinya Refugee Settlement and Maaji Refugee Settlement are carrying out the large-scale growing of cassava and maize on farmlands donated by host communities.
Speaking to journalists on Friday in Bikeri village, Ayiri parish in Ukusijoni sub-county, Magyezi said the initiative gives hope in addressing the challenges of feeding refugees in the country.
He notes that access to additional land for the refugees to grow their own crops is helpful in supplementing the food aid they receive while the surplus is sold to earn them money.
On Thursday, the Minister made a tour of block farms where both the refugees and host communities are farming in Bikeri village, Ukusijoni Sub-county and Pagirinya village in Dzaipi sub-county.
He said the initiative proves that hunger can be defeated in the settlements without handouts to refugees citing that some of the farmers have since earned 112 million shillings from the sales of their cassava.
According to Magyezi, the integration of the refugees and host community has helped in harmonizing the relationship between the two parties who previously had tension on land and resource sharing.
At least 3,000 acres of redundant land have since been donated by local landlords in Adjumani district to implement the intervention.
Albert Siminyu, the Country Director of Action Against Hunger in Uganda says that 200 acres of the donated land have already been opened for farming. He says both refugees and host communities that formed into groups have so far benefited under the pilot initiative after planting cassava last year.
Siminyu notes that they plan to work with the government and other stakeholders to continue advocating for refugees to access more land to produce enough food and avoid the burden of dependence on food assistance.
Refugees at the two settlements have praised the intervention describing it as timely amidst a food crisis they are facing following the cut in food and cash ration by World Food Programme.
Grace Layet, a refugee at Pagirinya Refugee Settlement and mother to six children says she has so far earned one million shillings from selling cassava she planted last year on the donated land.
Layet says the money she earned from selling cassava, part of it has helped to pay for her children’s school fees while the balance is catering for other basic needs at home.
She notes that limited farming space for refugees remains a key challenge promoting poverty and dependence on food aid assistance.
Refugees in Adjumani are settled on a 30 by 30 meters plot of land allocated by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) rendering large-scale farming impossible.
Under the communal farming initiative supported through funding from Netherlands Government (Right2Grwo project) and European Union Trust Fund (RISE Project), ACF will support both the host and refugees in opening farmlands, purchasing seeds and cassava cuttings, orange flesh sweet potato vines, transport means, and irrigation equipment.
On Friday, equipment worth 60 million shillings comprising eight solar-powered water pumps, two milling machines, and two tricycles were handed to eight farmer groups in Bikeri village, Ayiri parish in Ukusijoni sub-county.
Adjumani district with a host population of 238,800 locals is home to 235,796 South Sudan refugees according to data from OPM.