New Beginnings: Building Livelihoods in Otash IDP Camp in Darfur
“We are now doing well and are moving out of poverty,” says Miriam, who together with Safia and Assia has started a small business in Otash Camp for internally displaced people in South Darfur. Having received training in juice production from the Darfur Community Stability Fund and its local partner Mubadiroon, as well as in business development and project management from the UNDP Youth Volunteers Rebuilding Darfur project, these three women were successful in competing for a small start-up grant from the UNDP YVRD project for their small business. The trio are now earning more than 400 SDGs in a good week at the local market. Not only have they diversified their products to a range of different juices and handicrafts, they are also expanding their market reach by signing a long-term contract with a large supermarket in Nyala town. This contract secures a steady income for the three women and their families alongside profit made at local markets.
‘To you this may seem like a small project, but for us it is very big… Before this project, we didn’t have any money and we relied on food distribution and sometimes casual labour in the market. Now we earn our own money and we are able to expand our businesses explains Assia as she proudly exhibits their produce.With their new income, the women feel more finally independent and can now pay for their children’s school fees and household expenses.
Although Assia has been living in Otash Camp for over 10 years she assures us that if peace would return, so would she. Her wish is to return to her homestead and not only take up agriculture again, but also continue her business, building on the skills she has gained and thereby bring other women with her to learn. ‘I am thinking positively of my displacement now. It has given me the opportunity to learn new skills,’ she says.
Otash camp has a population of almost 73,000, many of whom are long term residents due to the ongoing conflict in South Darfur. The increased insecurity across the region in 2014 has forced many to flee from their homes and seek refuge and safety in camps run by humanitarian aid agencies. Only this year, it is estimated that over 36, 000 IDPs have arrived into Otash camps. Many of these IDPs fled their homes, leaving behind their possessions and often losing their lands, jobs and incomes.
The UNDP YVRD project has given a range of entrepreneurs across South Darfur the opportunity to start new businesses and diversify their trades. In Sirief camp, you can meet Haroun, who has become a very popular young man since he received the start-up grant from YVRD. With the money he received, Haroun purchased a generator for his projector and established a roving cinema business just in time to screen the World Cup for all the IDPs of Sirief camp. His peers joke that following his popularity and new wealth, Haroun now has the ability to marry a second wife.
Though much smaller in size, with a population of around 27 000 IDPs, Sirief camp is experiencing the same surge of new arrivals with the population having doubled in the last six months. Small initiatives such as Haroun’s roving cinema takes on a broader significance as it provides people with the opportunity to meet around something positive; cheering for their favourite teams, dreaming of adventures in far away lands or laughing at the latest Egyptian comedy.
The youth volunteers are proud of the good work their community members have done following the training and start-up grants that they’ve received, however it is not enough. With only 8 winners in each round for start-up grants, there is potential for many more and with larger grants the UNDP youth volunteers are certain that the grantees would create even bigger and more successful projects that would enable them to bring in more people to the businesses. “This support is needed for all the women in IDP camps who struggle and suffer from vulnerability” asserts Miriam from Otash Camp.
With a greater focus on integrated approaches around livelihoods and peacebuilding, UNDP is working to assist communities and entrepreneurs to build back better. Through support to youth volunteers, community peace and development committees, and producers along a range of value chains, UNDP hopes to expand its programmes and strengthen its public – private partnerships in the fight to end poverty.
The Youth Volunteers Rebuilding Darfur Project Phase I ran from January 2012 to May 2014 with the generous support from the MDG Trust Fund of Korea and is now mobilizing additional resources for phase II.
For more information on the YVRD please visit the project site here. And for further information on the Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund, please click here.