December 18, 2014
In Uganda, a JICA program to teach rice cultivation has been repurposed to address the growing problem of long-term refugees, and help refugees and their host communities become self-sufficient and live in harmony.
In recent years, as local conflicts have dragged on, the number of refugees and internally displaced persons in the world has increased. People with long-term refugee status have come to represent three-fourths of refugees (51.2 million people as of the end of 2013). In addition, some 80 percent of countries accepting refugees are developing countries, thus refugees place a heavy burden on social services. Partnerships between humanitarian assistance organizations and development agencies have been sought to find a long-term solution that incorporates the viewpoint of development in humanitarian assistance.
Enter JICA and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which have cooperated to offer training in rice cultivation techniques in Uganda to refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan as well as their host communities. Japan's official development assistance agency and the humanitarian assistance agency used JICA's already underway Promotion of Rice Development Project (PRiDe) to conduct the education from June to July. The two organizations signed a memorandum of understanding on Oct. 30 to formalize assistance to solve the problem of long-term refugees.
The partners hope that by offering training in rice growing techniques to refugees being supported by the UNHCR and communities accepting them, for the time being the two sides will be able to earn a living and live in harmony inside Uganda, and that in the future, when the refugees return to their countries, they will be able to smoothly start their lives.
In Uganda, there are more than 400,000 refugees from 32 countries. Particularly problematic are refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who have had refugee status since around the year 2000, and refugees from South Sudan, whose influx has been rapidly increasing since the end of 2013.
In Uganda, rice is a cash crop. When PriDe extends its target to the host community, it contributes to its food security and allows farmers to aim for a better livelihood. From June to July, in one county in the north with many refugees from South Sudan and in two counties in the west with many from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, rice cultivation training was carried out 12 times for residents of the host communities and refugees, a total of 360 people, on national land made available by the Ugandan government.
The training in each location accepted 50 people for half a day. It included lectures on the characteristics of New Rice for Africa (NERICA) and training in how to plant the seeds. Training participants are given for free rice cultivation educational materials and 1 kilogram of NERICA. One kilogram of seeds yields 50 kilograms of NERICA. The program asked them to distribute 2 kilograms of that to farmers who want to grow it in their neighborhoods.
PriDe (2011 to 2016) is working on scaling up the development and dissemination of rice cultivation techniques, marketing, and improved rice quality. So far it has performed training for 55 counties and some 20,000 farmers, and by the time the project ends, it aims to train 40,000 people.