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Factors That Influence Refugee Household Food and Livelihood Security in Uganda

Factors That Influence Refugee Household Food and Livelihood Security in Uganda

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Published by Eunice Akullo

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Published by: Eunice Akullo on Sep 21, 2010
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Factors that influence refugee household food and livelihood security inUganda
The reasons some households are food insecure are rooted in the ways entire livelihood systems have changed and adapted, or failed to adapt, to challenges from the ecological and economic environment, including shocks such as drought. Food security is thususefully seen as one important element of a sustainable livelihood 
.
1
 Uganda like many African countries is a highly agricultural one. For many countries in Africa,whether or they rely on agriculture, is the fact that natural resource utilization forms a big part of economic development and livelihoods for individuals, groups and entire nations. A greater partof earnings derived are from activities that exploit natural resources within such nations. Foodinsecurity has become a global concern in the recent past with the rise in food prices andincreasing patterns of climatic change that affect food production, distribution, prices(affordability), despite efforts to try and deal with it, for example, through the introduction of Genetically Modified plant/animal species or try and close the gap in output available to meet thedemand of the world¶s population. Unpredictable climatic modes means that drought, highrainfall amounts, floods, among other catastrophes are bound to affect production, distributionand access to food by entire populations. Given this backdrop, whatever affects agriculturalactivities and agriculture as sector are bound to affect household food and livelihood security,although this does not mean that households can not survive through other activities that canenable them to earn a living when they used their assets, capabilities and capital.The 1951 UN Convention on Refugees defines a Refugee as;
a person who owing to well- founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and isunable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.
2
 
Sebba (2006) has noted that the refugee problem in Uganda dates back as far as the 1950s.Refugees in Uganda are settled in gazetted areas in close proximity to the local populations. Themost common nationalities are the Sudanese, Congolese, Rwandese, people from Burundi,Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. Most of these have come in as a product of war/civil war in part of or the entire countries of origins which threatened their physical life and liberties. Settlementsinclude; Nakivale, Oruchinga, Kyaka I and II in southwestern Uganda; Rhino camp, Imvepi andIkafe in northern Uganda; and Kiryandongo and Kyangwali in central Uganda.
3
All these are inrural settings whose inhabitants are predominant agricultural (peasant or pastoral). However,these are only a fraction of the entire population as there are some refugees in urban centers likeKampala and a number of those who because they may not have gone through the statusdetermination process, may opt for self settlement as a solution to their problem of forced
1
(Eds), S. D. a. S. M. (2001). Food Security on Sub-Saharan Africa, University of Natal Press and ITDG London.
2
Article 1, 1951 UN Convention on Refugees
3
Sebba, K. R. (July, 2006). New Issues in Refugee Research: Land conflicts and their impact on refugee women'slivelihoods in southwestern Uganda UNHCR 
:
 
1-12.
 
migration/ displacement within different parts of areas inhabited by local inhabitants of Uganda.[Macchiavello (2003), Macchiavello (2001)]It is important to understand the context of livelihood and food security before engaging in thefactors that actually influence refugee household and food security in Uganda. These arediscussed in the next section below.There has been a shift over the years in the understanding and analysis of food and livelihoodsecurity from a ³Growth-First Strategy´ (GFS) to a ³Food-First Strategy´ (FFS) to a ³Food-Security-First Strategy´ (FSFS) and finally over to the ³Sustainable Livelihood Approach´(SLA). The FSFS emphasizes entitlements through the improvement of poor people¶s ability toacquire food production , purchase and exchange or gift; where as SLA addresses food(in)security from a vulnerability perspective- considering deprivation as being progressive andcumulative. Vulnerability becomes inevitable when there is a risk of entitlements collapsing or  proving inadequate, therefore compelling those who affected to adopt complex and rationalstrategies so as to avoid destitution
4
. It is a summary of how people use the resources at their disposal to construct a livelihood. These resources include the various kinds of capital andstrategies arising from the multiplicity of actors who influence/ constrain resource use- leading tonegative or positive outcomes.
 A
livelihood comprises the capabilities, assets (including both material and social resources)and activities required for a means of living.
 A
livelihood is sustainable when it can cope withand recover from stresses and shocks maintain and enhance its capabilities and assets, while not undermining the natural resource base
5
 
Key for the SLA are three key categories; settings, capitals and institutions. Settings comprisethe historical and political factors, current policies, macro-economic conditions, and terms of trade, climate, environment, demography and existing patterns of social differentiation. Thesemay widen or narrow the livelihoods options available. Maxwell and Devereux (2001) definecapitals as building blocks which people and households can fashion into livelihoods and theseinclude; natural capital (natural resources), financial/economic capital (savings and access tocredit), physical capital (infrastructure and transport), human capital (gender structures,education, skills, knowledge and good health which all enhance effectiveness) and social capital(social networks, claims and social relationships).Institutions are the norms and rules which govern individual and group behavior and influencethe ability of individuals¶ and households¶ access to livelihoods resources. These may becustomary (gender differences) or formal/administrative or legal structures-all of which influenceaccess to and use of resources. All these are dynamic and are bound to alter with changes in
4
(Eds), S. D. a. S. M. (2001). Food Security on Sub-Saharan Africa, University of Natal Press and ITDG London.
5
Ibid.
 
society. The sustainability of institutional strategies therefore affects access to and utilization of resources within their areas of jurisdiction.Households may adopt one of these four livelihoods strategies depending on circumstances andavailability and exposure to settings, capitals and institutions;1.
 
Livelihoods diversification:- the diversification of economic activities and a move awayfrom reliance on a primary enterprise2.
 
Livelihoods extensification:- application of more capital, labor and technology so as torealize more output3.
 
Livelihoods intensification:- ensuring the production matches the labor, capital andtechnology invested4.
 
Migration:- the movement away from original livelihood system to a new one in searchfor a livingThe writers note that diversification may be a product of increased vulnerability as a response tothe failure of previous livelihood strategies or it may be significant of accumulation andinvestment for the future so as to get improved livelihood outcomes over time. They note that;³
 I 
t is generally true that the poorest have the fewest livelihood options, and that these are least likely to provide sustainable or secure outcomes. Thus livelihood diversification is least available to the poor. This is due to inadequate endowments of all forms of capital, including the forms of human capital (especially education) which would enable them to take up newopportunities, or the social networks which create new opportunities, or the social networkswhich create opportunities. The poor often face greater institutional restrictions; through thelack of self-organization or institutionalization constraints on to access of livelihood resources«differential impact will also depend on factors such as women¶s asset status, and the availabilityof poor friendly credit 
6
 The SLA framework/ strategy will be used to analyze the question in which settings, capitals andinstitutions will be used to critically examine the factors that influence refugee livelihoods inUganda. Important to note also, is that these three sub-categories may have overlaps and can notexclusively be used as units of analysis on their own.
SETTINGS
(In) Security (political environment)
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) report on Uganda
7
notes that in2002, when the Lord¶s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels attacked the refugee settlements of Achol-Pii and Majaa in Adjumani, refugees living in the settlement, mainly from Sudanese origin hadto be relocated to other settlement camps within Adjumani and some were relocated to
6
Ibid.
7
UNHCR (2002). UNHCR Global Report 2002: Uganda, UNHCR 
:
 
193-1999.

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