Susan Amekwi has just completed distributing highly nutritious flour to refugee families in Village 2 of Kalobeyei settlement in northern Kenya. She is a trader, one of 17 Kenyan host community traders contracted by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Kalobeyei, with the support of the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), to operate Bamba Chakula (“Get your food”) shops. Thanks to these shops 38,000 refugees in Kalobeyei can redeem food assistance in the form of mobile money cash transfers.
In March, these traders also took over the distribution of corn soya blend — a nutritious flour given to refugees to prevent or treat malnutrition. The corn soya blend is a specialized product that is still provided in-kind rather than using cash to buy it.
“This month, I received 91 bags of ‘porridge’,” says Susan. “I distributed 82 bags.” This translates to just over 2 metric tons.
Corn soya blend is commonly referred to as ‘porridge’ in Kenya. For each metric ton (1000 kilograms) of porridge distributed, traders receive 6,000 Kenyan shillings (US$ 60). Each refugee in Kalobeyei receives about 1.2 kg of ‘porridge’ per month.
“The shop is busy during the ten days that I’m distributing the porridge,” Susan says. “When collecting the porridge, some of the customers decide to buy other food items as well.” The sales from their shops are expected to rise on the back of their new role as distributors of the corn soya blend.
"Distributing the porridge gives us exposure,” says Lolem Boyo Emilat, another trader from the host community. “Even if customers do not buy there and then, they leave the shop knowing the stocks you have, and they might come back.”
With the EU's support, WFP is in the process of building 15 new shops in Kalobeyei for the local Kenyan population.
The EU is helping to fund WFP's Retail Engagement Initiative which supports a network of local, Kenyan traders to increase their business skills with training on good customer relations, financial management, book keeping and stock management.
The focus is also on improving the business environment and the ‘value for money’ for refugees and other retail consumers by improving the supply chain of food commodities to refugee market so that, ultimately, local consumers receive high quality and nutritious foods at affordable prices.
One challenge the initiative is working to resolve is the lack of infrastructure and skills among traders to safely handle fresh foods such as fish, meat, and vegetables — some of the foods most preferred by both refugees and local Kenyans. Innovation ideas are being piloted such as cold storage solutions built using charcoal and point of sale technology meant to help traders manage both their sales and stocks with one hand-held electronic gadget.
Many traders say that their businesses have grown exponentially since they joined the programme.
Kalobeyei settlement is a unique pilot project designed to bring refugees and local communities together in a mutually beneficial relationship through common social and economic activities. The implemented model insures less dependence of refugees on the host state. The model creates sustainable solutions that benefit local communities today and for the future - when/if refugees are able to return to their countries, the business and innovation skills that have been taught to the local community, for example, remain.
- Publication date
- 6 November 2018
- Greater economic and employment opportunities
- World Food Programme