Uganda: Creative farming by JRS urban refugee farmers club
15 February 2013

Some members of the refugee farmers club tilling the land at the JRS Kampala Urban Emergency Project compound in Uganda. (Stephen Kuteesa/JRS)
To our surprise when we shared the farming plan with refugees, five individuals from the group revealed that they were agriculturalists by profession.
Kampala, 15 February 2013 - A refugee farmers' club, the first of its kind, has been initiated in Kampala, Uganda. The club that has 40 members made up of refugees and asylum seekers was started in December 2012 and includes some JRS staff members.

The shifting of the JRS Kampala office to Xavier House (former residence of the Jesuits) in October 2012 introduced the whole idea of farming. The new JRS Kampala home has a sizable garden which is attractive for farming. My first impression on scouting the garden was that we can use it to teach urban refugees about container gardening. "We can use this piece of land to demonstrate vegetable growing to refugees using very simple and easy to acquire materials", were my first thoughts to the team.

Initiative well received.To our surprise when we shared the farming plan with refugees, five individuals from the group revealed that they were agriculturalists by profession. " I worked in an agricultural research farm in Congo, I will be very happy to be part of the farmers", said Janvier (not real name).

The group started a pilot project to grow vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, egg plants among others) besides rearing rabbits. Seeing the morale, unity, energy and love put by the refugees and JRS staff while in the garden, it depicted a true common African culture. "Sisi wote tuko wa Afrika na tunajua kulima (we are all Africans and we know how to farm)", said one of the participants.

The activities of the farmers' club are based on individual initiative and willingness to participate. This explains the love and energy invested and in the first products. The garden has produced high quality, healthy organically grown cucumbers, carrots and tomatoes that are not only benefiting club members but also supplementing the diet of some malnourished and vulnerable beneficiaries visiting the JRS office.

The activities of the club have introduced the slogan: "one fruit daily makes the doctor poor". Refugees have been introduced to container gardening, with the first group awaiting the first yields from their experiments.

Additionally to the activities run by JRS urban emergency program Kampala, through the farmers' club, skills on simple vegetable gardening will be given to urban refugees and asylum seekers as a contribution towards ensuring access to improved diet and nutrition.

The farming club will thus give an opportunity to members to practice their skills while at the same time supplementing their diet. This will indeed keep the doctor away.

By Kuteesa Stephen, JRS Kampala Project Director

JRS has been working in Kampala since 1998, responding to the urgent, unmet needs of new arrivals (asylum seekers and refugees) in vulnerable circumstances. For refugees fleeing conflict, civil unrest or oppressive political circumstances, the JRS Urban Emergency Programme provides information, food and non-food items, rent and medical assistance, transport and psychosocial support. JRS also offers English language lessons and vocational training courses to enable refugees earn a living and support themselves.