Displaced people are typically involved in activities such as agriculture, livestock breeding, fishing and trade. Income provides the basis for food security and self-reliance, contributing towards general stability, prosperity and peace.

Investing in livelihoods activities helps reduce the costs associated with the provision of aid and protection. Building self-reliance is essential throughout all phases of displacement; during emergencies, following emergencies, and towards durable solutions. Self-reliance will enable refugees to live with dignity and create a future for themselves and their families.


Kakuma  Refugee Camp currently hosts 196,666 registered refugees and asylum-seekers (as at 31 March 2020) of which 43.7% of the registered population falls within the productive age of 18-59 years old.

Approximately 2,500 businesses in Kakuma and Kalobeyei make up 30 percent of all known businesses in Turkana. The population density affords opportunities for economies of scale. KISEDP outline potential flagships that aim to improve refugee livelihoods and self-reliance aligned to the CRRF.  An enabling environment process in Turkana West is ongoing which includes building institutional and technical capacity, reduce and manage legal, regulatory and administrative impediments, addressing infrastructural challenges to economic growth in interconnected sectors namely mobility, energy and water as well as investing in people’s capabilities by promoting specialized and marketable skills.

To adequately boost private sector engagement and promote self-reliance of refugee and host communities in Turkana West, KISEDP stakeholders have prioritized for 2020:

  • The Ministry of Trade supported by IFC to establish the Huduma/Biashara center in Kakuma for the provision of legal documentation and business development services to refugees and host communities engaging in businesses. The centre will strive to provide well-coordinated, demand driven and needs based response for the MSMEs in Kakuma operation.
  • The IFC to roll out the Kakuma Kalobeyei Challenge Fund, a business competition that will identify and support the rollout of new businesses or support the expansion of existing operations that are commercially viable. This will need to be complemented by additional investments from multiple stakeholders on business incubation to maximize market potential.
  • Strengthen the CBO modalities and maximize local capacities to offer services and implement relevant programmes that contribute to the KISEDP goals.
  • Promote specialized trainings that prepare refugee and host communities to actively engage and market their skills and capabilities in their new market environment. This includes the development of a comprehensive and interactive livelihoods database to provide realistic, dependable and credible data.
  • Partners have embarked on livelihoods data collection exercise of their past beneficiaries and the data will include information on existing skills amongst the refugee and host communities and the correlation with their education, employability and financial inclusion.
  • Moreover, the need to develop a comprehensive labour market assessment  to better understand the refugee labour environment; market dynamics and relationships between actors; tap into refugees’ and host communities’ labor and market skills, their capacities and experiences; identify and overcome barriers to create opportunities for refugees and their hosts and; distinguish entry points for market-based livelihood interventions.
  • Combined with a comprehensive analysis of the livelihood baseline data and an initial investment in specialized/marketable skills in conjunction with the WB/IFC investments in private sector and business environment is likely to allow KISEDP partners to meet their collective goal of reaching approximately 5000 refugee and 1500 host population to have acquired by 2022 specialized and marketable skills.

Majority of the refugees earn their livelihoods through employment as incentive workers, petty trade, cash remittances from relatives and friends abroad as well as engagement in small and medium scale business enterprises (traders/vendors, motorcycle riders, tailors).

A range of vocational and skills training programmes are implemented through Don Bosco and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), these trainings provide youth with marketable hands on skills necessary for their survival in the camp.

The Sub Office in collaboration with the Government and partners seeks to promote self-reliance through development of refugees’ individual capabilities (e.g. skills development, establishment and development of small businesses) as well as promoting an environment that fosters access to livelihoods opportunities, partnerships with the private sector and sustained advocacy initiatives to ensure policy reform that allows for integration of refugee and host community economies.

Key livelihoods interventions include improved access to agriculture through use of optimal water irrigation systems, access to information and communications technologies, provision of vocational and technical skills training opportunities and improved access to self-employment/business.

The strategies employed include:

Enhancement of market driven and sustainable initiatives: UNHCR and its partners periodically conduct assessments and strengthen monitoring and evaluation of activities. The operation embraces innovation approaches in agriculture, business development, information and communication to enable beneficiaries have a competitive edge and penetrate new local, regional and international markets.

Addressing the dependency mind-set of refugees: UNHCR has adopted an asset based approach (appreciates beneficiary potential) in mobilisation and capacity building initiatives. Currently, the office in collaboration with AAHI (UNHCR lead Livelihood partner) conducts socio-economic profiling of new arrivals at the reception center, this ensures that refugees with livelihood skills are identified, documented and referred to successful business entrepreneurs’ through the mentorship programme.

Scale up of business development opportunities through promotion of table banking, village saving and lending associations (VSLA) as well as expanding the revolving loans (at 0%) initiative implemented through a partnership between AAHI (UNHCR lead Livelihood partner) and Equity Bank. Expanding conflict and innovative approaches that enable refugees to access informal loans.

Introducing e-Entrepreneurship opportunities to offer employment for youth and adolescent through access to online jobs and marketing (tele -work, online work, etc.) of products produced locally at Kakuma level.

Strengthening strategic partnerships with the Kenya government, Turkana County and sub County governments, the private sector and developmental agencies to open up and galvanise livelihood initiatives in Kakuma.

In recognition of host community contribution to humanitarian protection, the Office continues to fund Community Support Projects (CSPs) in education, water, sanitation and health covering 6 administrative wards of Letea, Oropoi, Songot, Nanam, Kalobeyei and Kakuma. These projects are implemented through LOKADO, a local NGO.

UNHCR works closely with the Government of Kenya, the County and Sub County government and more than 11 partners (IPs & OPs) to support a coordinated resilience development approach that promotes self-reliance and sustainable human development for refugees and host communities. Additionally, UNHCR continues to strengthen its partnerships with the private sector, NGOs and UN sister agencies such as WFP, FAO.

Implementing Partners include AAHI, Don Bosco, LOKADO.

Operational Partners include WFP, NCCK, NRC, LWF, SwissContact, GIZ, DRC, FAO.



The Dadaab strategy is anchored on the UNHCR Global Livelihoods Strategy, and it is implemented through the support of two implementing partners Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC); and four operational partners Refugee Education Trust (RET), World Vision International, CARE and Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

Through the support of UNHCR and other donors, the livelihoods working group implements market based livelihood projects aimed at building the human, financial, physical, social and economic capitals of targeted persons of concern and identified host community members in Dadaab Complex. The activities are designed to promote resilience building, protection of vulnerable households and ultimate solutions building / self-reliance of the targeted beneficiaries. The market based livelihood activities implemented include;

  • Vocational (at YEP centres) and technical skills (in recognised national training institutions) training mostly targeting the youth including those out of school
  • Enterprise Development / employment creation; with activities on business training, grants and start-up kit issuance, online jobs / digital work, production activities (bead necklaces, soap production, tie and dye products, agricultural ventures through greenhouse model), community micro-finance scheme through the Village Saving and Loans Association Model (VSLA), market promotion (e.g. the WFP voucher / cash based project) and linkages.
  • Artist for Refugees project; Promotion of livelihood opportunities for the youth through talent harnessing and nurturing.
  • Advocacy and sensitisation sessions; linkage with relevant National and County Government Departments (e.g. business permit issuance unit), private sector companies (e.g. Safaricom, impact outsourcing companies , Kenya National Chamber of Commerce).

Livelihood projects target both PoCs and members from the host community who comprise between 10-20% of the direct beneficiaries in the skills development training. Skilled refugees and host community members access employment (as community workers for PoCs and as professional or casual workers for host community) in the camp within the different agencies, international and national NGOs. UNHCR collaborates with WFP in the voucher ‘Bamba Chakula’ project where close to 30%, of the total contracted vendors, were identified from the host business community / traders as WFP contracted vendors / traders. Host community members also participate in the community micro-finance schemes (VSLA) and training. The recently completed market study documented the role of the host community in the different product value chains; mainly as producers and middlemen whereas refugees engage more in the retail (end of the product value chains) and consumption level. The economic integration, through trade continues to promote peaceful and harmonious co-existence between refugees and the local community in Dadaab.

Urban Livelihoods Programme

Urban persons of concern constitute 80,750 as of July 2020, and reside in different urban areas in Nairobi, Kajiado, Kiambu, Nakuru, Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale Counties. A significant working age group (18-59 yrs) represent a vibrant demography (59.1%) that is ready to engage within the labour work force to contribute to socio-economic development.

UNHCR and partners seek to promote refugee self-reliance through development of refugees’ individual capabilities and promoting an enabling environment that allows them to access livelihoods opportunities. The urban livelihoods strategy aims to achieve this goal through the following:

Skills development: To transfer skills and facilitate asylum-seekers and refugee access to viable wage and self employment opportunities that increase household income through market driven vocational and industry led skills training that help build the capacity of PoC to access employment opportunities and digital skills for the digital economy.

Enterprise development: To build the competitiveness of asylum seeker and refugee enterprises and secure access to business development services and markets through access to business capital in form of grants and loans, entrepreneurship training, market linkage and other business development services.

MADE51: This is a market-based model that aims to accelerate economic inclusion of refugees and host community members in various artisanal value chains.  UNHCR brings together refugees and host community members with artisan skills and connects them to Local Social Enterprises (LSE’s) who facilitate product improvement and market linkages in the local and international markets. In Urban and Kakuma, UNHCR engages BawaHope (LSE) in the jewellery, bags and baskets trades.

Poverty Alleviation Coalition (PAC):  UNHCR through a coalition of partner organizations, aims to empower refugees and host community households facing extreme poverty through the implementation of the graduation model which encompasses consumption support, financial inclusion, skills training, asset transfer and regular coaching leading them on a pathway to self-reliance.

Advocacy: To promote the right of persons of concern to access livelihoods opportunities. This includes advocacy with relevant government agencies for refugees’ access to work permits, KRA PIN, and business licenses; admission to public and private vocational institutions; financial inclusion with mainstream financial service providers to access banking and credit services, business development services and access to livelihoods opportunities in the private sector.

Evidence based approach: Through socio-economic assessments and studies, UNHCR aims to understand the opportunities and gaps in livelihood programming in order to design appropriate and targeted interventions. The recent World Bank’s telephone survey will provide insights into the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 to refugee households in the urban thereby informing livelihood programming and response.

Advocacy efforts have led to increased access to legal permits, i.e. business license and KRA PIN for tax purposes. Refugees can open savings accounts in specific financial institutions albeit credit remains restricted.

Partnerships with the private sector have been strengthened to further enhance access to livelihood opportunities by refugees. An agreement with the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce has been initiated that would enable refugee entrepreneurs access SME development opportunities and offer potential partnership within its membership. A mutually beneficial relationship with financial institutions is sustained to ensure continued access of refugees to financial services.

A tripartite MoU between UNHCR, ILO and Microfinance institutions has been initiated which will foster access to credit and business development services to refugees and asylum seekers. Skills trainings for refugees and asylum seekers in the beauty industry was conducted in partnership with Loreal. A partnership between UNHCR, UNDP and Toyota Kenya are facilitating an automotive skills training for refugees and host community. A partnership with Oracle to enhance digital skills trainings through a Workforce Development Program is being implemented. UNHCR endeavours to have multi-stakeholder involvement in the implementation of livelihood programmes.