By Nelson Papi Kolliesuah
Gulu City, 31st March 2021. A partnership agreement was sealed on 26 March 2021 between the Andre Foods international (AFI) and the team of Vertical Farming in Refugees Setting dubbed “VEFIRS”, a team of five innovators and mission-driven African scholars originating from Liberia, Benin, Namibia, Uganda, and Kenya, respectively who have completed Masters of Science in Food Security and Community Nutrition at Gulu University, Uganda supported by the RUFORUM and Mastercard Foundation. The aim of the partnership is twofold; firstly, the VEFIRS project team to provide technical support to AFI in setting-up multi-storey vertical gardens for one hundred (100) refugees and the host community at Imvepi Refugee camp located in Arua. AFI will oversee and manage the garden with beneficiaries for phase one of the project which will end in May of 2021. AFI and VEFIRS team will jointly monitor and evaluate the success of the project at the end of May 2021. Secondly, beneficiaries will replicate the idea at the household level. In this case, AFI will provide continuous support to beneficiaries and evaluate the second phase of the project. The success of the second phase will provide a solid foundation for AFI to adapt and cascade the project, one that will ensure the project is sustained over time. It can be recalled that in 2020 the VEFIRS team participated in the Advancing Development Goals International Contest and the Geneva Challenge to join global scholars at the graduate level in devising solutions to the challenges of social inclusion. Our inspiration for participating was drawn from the need to engage in pathbreaking research that will transform and improve investment outlook for vulnerable groups in Africa, and to develop a community of inclusivity with the aim of attracting and motivating high to reach rural communities in fostering radical change to improve the agri-food systems. The team emerged as the face of Africa and finished in the third-place position globally along with South America. This award came with a minimal cash prize to enable the team to implement the project with the more focused attention by the project team given to the Imvepi refugee settlement as a pilot location. The VEFIRS project team is committed to community transformation as part of the tenets of our provided through Transforming African Agricultural Universities to meaningfully contribute to Africa’s growth and development (TAGDev) programme.