Agricultural farming, a reliable source of livelihood for both refugees and host community in Dadaab   

Refugees and host communities farming together will enhance food security in Dadaab and its environs

Abdi Mohamed Aden, nicknamed ‘Pilipili’ is one of the hardworking refugee farmers who proudly showed us some of the fresh and green okra he harvested from his farm. © UNHCR/Assadullah Nasrullah

Abdi Mohamed Aden is one of the hardworking refugee farmers, he proudly shows off some of the fresh and green okra he harvested from his farm. Abdi is nicknamed Pilipili (pepper) because he is popular for supplying camp markets with pepper. ‘Pilipili’ started farming out of his own initiative, using his previous experience as a farmer in Somalia.

Despite restriction on their movement outside the camps, these refugee farmers are happy to have an income generating activity that supports their families. Abdi explains that farming has reduced their dependency on humanitarian assistance from UNHCR and other agencies.

“Since we are refugees with less opportunities and cannot move outside the refugee camps, these farms provide a source of income for us. We divided ourselves into groups and take turns supplying the three camps.” Abdi says. “At the end of every working day, we come together and split the little profit we make. I earn USD 430 after every three months.”

What the small-scale farmers have been harvesting shows that there is a huge potential for food production in Dadaab

On average, the farmers produce 125 kilograms of tomatoes from 0.2 hectare of land, 90 kilograms of okra from 0.14 hectare of land and 212 kilograms of beans from 0.16 hectare of land. Nearly 77% are sold on the local markets while 23 per cent is consumed at home.  Each farmer is earns an average of 433 USD per season from selling their produce. The farmers are trained on best farming practices and sensitized on planting trees and protecting the environment.

“We consume some of the harvest and sell the rest to buy clothes and farming inputs we need. With relevant  support, I can grow different crops and earn even more. At the moment, I make between 5 and 10 USD a day.” Kuusa Shafat, a female refugee farmer said.

“What I harvest, I cook for my children and I sell it in the market”. 22-year-old Habibo, mom of 4 kids, is one of the 53 refugee women who completed a 3 months practical agriculture farming training in Ifo camp of Dadaab. © UNHCR/Assadullah Nasrullah

Communities living around Dadaab refugee camps depend largely on livestock keeping as a source of livelihood while refugees in the camps depend on UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies assistance.  However, refugees and host community are changing their way of lives and engaging in farming to produce different varieties of vegetables, grains and fruits.

The host community have been very hospitable and willingly share land for agriculture with refugees

During the past years, dozens of small-scale farmers coming from both refugees and host community have been able to produce significant amounts of food in Dadaab using flood recession on land located near a seasonal water pool in Hagadera refugee camp with minimal support from agencies and sell their harvest in the camp markets.

Farming in Dadaab

Refugees and host community farmers working together in an okra field in Hagadera camps of Dadaab. © UNHCR/Assadullah Nasrullah

Farming in Dadaab

A refugee woman trained by Danish Refugee Council (DRC) on agricultural farming in Dadaab. © UNHCR/Assadullah Nasrullah

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Pawpaw tree heavily loaded in a farm in Hagadera, Dadaab camp © UNHCR/Assadullah Nasrullah

The host community have been very hospitable and willingly share land for agriculture with refugees.  The initiative has enhanced food security for refugees and host community and equally strengthened  collaboration and peaceful coexistence between the refugees and host communities surrounding the refugee camps.

“As a local farmer, I did not have a source of livelihood, but working together with the refugees has given us income.  We are now able to support our families.” Said Suleiman says.

UNHCR supports the farmers with water for irrigation from a nearby borehole, drip irrigation kits and technical training with the aim of improving livelihoods and the well-being of both, the host community and refugee population. With an irrigation system in place, the farmers are able to utilize the land all year round instead of depending on rain fed agriculture.

During her recent visit to Dadaab, UNHCR Kenya Representative, Fathiaa Abdalla said, “Refugees and host communities farming together will enhance food security in Dadaab and its environs.” Abdalla applauded the strategic partnerships that has made it possible for refugees to access water for irrigation, and enhancing livelihood and self-reliance.

UNHCR Kenya Representative, Fathiaa Abdalla was impressed by the fruits of various fruit trees during her visit to an orchard in the former Ifo2 camp of Dadaab. © UNHCR/Assadullah Nasrullah

Currently the main irrigation water source in Dadaab is the boreholes supported by, solar system and other high-tech interventions.  Plans are underway to adopt spate irrigation alongside surface water harvesting and drip irrigation to ensure efficiency in water resource management and sustainability.

“We can increase the yield if we get training and farming tools. In turn, these farms will provide employment opportunities for both refugees and host communities. In the past, we had to use donkey carts to transport water but UNHCR assisted us with irrigation water from the borehole.” Suleiman explains.

The farmers not only consume what they produce but have rented spaces in the local market where they sell their fresh produce for sale.

With an irrigation system in place, the farmers are able to utilize the land all year round instead of depending on rain fed agriculture

Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) is partnership with UNHCR has established fruit tree greenbelts to rehabilitate the environmental.  The establishment of fruit tree greenbelts has demonstrated that  Dadaab has a huge potential in agriculture that is yet to be fully explored.  So far, more than a thousand guavas, avocado, lemon, mangoes, pawpaw and banana trees were planted.  The orchard is already producing some of the sweetest bananas, papayas and watermelons in a project initiated in March 2018.  In the new 25 hectare orchard, 10,000 fruit trees have been planted.

The Dadaab refugee complex has a population of 210,724 refugees and asylum seekers, and consists of three camps, Hagadera, Ifo, and Dagahaley. 96 per cent of the refugees are from Somalia.