Excitement as UNDP’s Cash for Work Project kicks off in Uganda’s Bidibidi Refugee Settlement

Tuesday 31 October 2017

Viola Tabu, 22, runs a red comb through her hair as she fondles it. Looking into the small mirror with quiet excitement, she is like an adult expecting her suitor.

Besides her, three children are playing in their “new” home in Ombechi, Bidibidi refugee settlement, Uganda.

Tabu’s excitement is borne out of relief after she became one of the successful beneficiaries of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-funded Uganda Emergency Response and Resilience Strategy for Refugees and Host Communities.

The family arrived in Uganda in December 2016, fleeing violence in their home in South Sudan, and were settled in Bidibidi refugee resettlement, currently known as the largest resettlement in the world, with over 278,000 refugees, all from South Sudan.

“I was relieved when I heard my name read out as one of the successful beneficiaries. I never expected to make it to the final list because I thought that some of these things are not meant for us the youth,” Tabu says. “I look forward to becoming  empowered and supporting my family both economically and socially out of the money which I will be paid.”

Tabu is one of the 500 beneficiaries of the UNDP flagship project which is being implemented by Save the Children with the aim of expanding support within the communities in Bidibidi, integrating market strengthening activities with demand and providing secure and continuous income-generating microbusinesses for families, thereby creating less dependence on climate-reliant farming activities.

Under the project, the South Sudanese refugees and host community (Ugandans) will plant trees, maintain roads, clear garbage and dig rubbish pits in markets, health centres, schools and child-friendly spaces.  This will be under the supervision and guidance of Save the Children staff supported by district technical officers. In return, each of the selected participants will be remunerated with a stipend.

Children walk through a bushy road in Bidibidi after fetching water.

Children walk through one of the bushy roads in Bidibidi refugee settlement

The project follows Save the Children’s recent rapid Household Economy Analysis (HEA) in Bidibidi settlement that highlighted the need for improved livelihoods among host and refugee communities, including the need for rapid income-generating opportunities for youth.

According to the HEA report, households in both refugee and host communities are traditionally reliant on household crop production as their main source of food and cash income, but poor rains in the 2016/17 season meant lower yields in cash and staple crops for Ugandan households, while refugees are still awaiting provision of land under the Settlement Transformation Agenda.

“This delay means that refugees are still reliant on food distribution from the World Food Programme (WFP). This food in turn enters the market as refugees attempt to make a small income from its sale in order to purchase other required food items such as rice, groundnuts, sugar, meat, fish, cassava flour and vegetables and non-food items like soap, batteries, phone charging and transport,” the report added.

Hafizu Lwambo, the Assistant Settlement Commandant in charge of Bidibidi’s Zone 5, welcomed the Cash for Work project, saying it will go a long way in supplementing efforts towards the response to the South Sudan refugee crisis.

Uriga Akasa David, the Senior Assistant Engineering Officer in Yumbe District, said initiatives like Cash for Work not only improve people’s livelihoods but also contribute to developing infrastructure like roads, markets and conservation of environment through tree planting.

The provision of cash incentives to youth like Tabu may very well be the way forward to empower them economically while developing their communities’ infrastructure.