In early 2018, the first cohort of Gulu University students under the Mastercard Supported Scholarship at RUFORUM, through the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment (FAE) got engaged with the refugees in the west Nile districts of Arua and Adjumani in Uganda. This is part of the model used by the University to have students engage with communities as part of their requirement for their degree programme. Starting from the dynamics of group formation and problem identification, the engagement led to identification and set up of various enterprises with a view to support strong farm based micro enterprises for the refugees and their host communities. This was an effort to extend the University’s Community Transformation Agricultural Training Model to refugee settlement and host communities of Adjumani and Arua district in WestNile, Uganda. Consequently, the Faculty of Agriculture and Environment students delivered the training to twenty groups of champion farmers in six selected settlements in the two districts of intervention, and to realize the project sustainability, there was need to follow up and evaluate the status and performance of the groups in terms of production and sales of their enterprises.
Emerging dynamics and student engagement
The second stage of the Gulu University FAE student engagement with refugees, started with an evaluation of the status and performance of the champion farmer groups in terms of production and sales under previously established micro enterprises as well as expectation and needs of groups in terms of capacity building.
Students conducted focus group discussions, dialogues from the various groups and experience sharing on the business, additionally, the carried out Inspection of field and production site, training materials, and sales record to determine the group performance. The main enterprises of focus were current vegetable garden, composite flour production, bakery production, sales record, training material and equipment use.
Key findings in the evaluation indicated that 11 out of 20 formerly trained groups were still working together in their micro enterprises even after the initial engagement ended. The 11 groups were still continuing with the enterprise and performing well in terms of production and sales across the six refugee settlement of intervention both in Adjumani and Arua district. However, for the other 9 groups, movement of some members into other settlements and occasional movements back to their areas of origin (South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo) had disintegrated some, with individuals opting to carry on the enterprise activities on their own as households, such as vegetable production and small baking initiatives.
In general, most of the groups and households had an appreciable level of transformation towards better income status. Specifically, there were still high expectations of more support across many groups especially in mushroom seed, training on other cake products, onion, cabbage and tomato seeds, group dynamics, market linkages, more support for local goat and local chicken enterprises among others. It is these areas that the students are now set out to work with the faculty to conduct trainings and capacity building for the refugees and host communities.