Milk and income for Malian refugees in Burkina Faso
The Seeds for Solutions project, sponsored by the IKEA foundation, will help families and their children rebuild their lives after more than three years of exile
The Sahel region of Burkina Faso currently hosts most of the 33,692 Malian refugees who have fled a violent conflict in the northern part of their country and have sought refuge in Burkina Faso. In these dry and remote parts of that country ,Malian refugees as well as the local communities hosting them are mostly pastoralists, who own cows, goats, sheep, donkeys and camels, subsisting on a traditional diet of milk and millet. But because the majority of their livestock is located far away from the refugee camps, the refugees and their children are unable to access milk on a regular basis. This situation of high demand and low supply has a negative impact on the health of the populations, notably children in refugee camps, some of whom may still needs additional nutriments despite the food assistance provided by UNHCR’s partners.
For this reason, UNHCR launched the project “Seeds for Solutions” in collaboration with Vétérinaires Sans Frontières. Supported by the IKEA Foundation with a contribution of almost 5 million Euros during 3 years, the project is designed to improve the socio-economic well-being of Malian refugees and host communities in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso through the establishment of sustainable dairy micro-enterprises. UNHCR strongly believes in this sustainable approach for both refugees and local populations.
“The most innovative feature of this three-year project lies in its capacity to gradually improve income generation as if climbing steps to self-reliance” explains Yuve Guluma, Food security and Nutrition Officer at UNHCR in Burkina Faso. “This year, we are improving people’s skills and building assets. We are also increasing milk production and processing (pasteurisation, conservation, etc), including of mini-dairies owned by women’s groups in the Sahel. Next year, we’ll help develop the entrepreneurship of cattle owners and milk collectors and processors. Finally in 2017, we’ll make sure that people of concern for UNHCR have access to financial and other decentralised services.” Furthermore, UNHCR, in collaboration with Save the Children International, is setting up milk kitchens in the refugee camps. The kitchens will be supplied through local procurement from mini-dairies supported by the project, thereby preventing the malnutrition of children.
Since security conditions in northern Mali remain volatile and do not encourage UNHCR to promote the return of Malian refugees to their areas of origin, and because UNHCR’s current level of funding in Burkina Faso is low, the IKEA Foundation grant is more than welcome. ‘UNHCR’s decreasing resources in Burkina Faso do not allow us to provide sufficient healthcare and other basic services which Malian refugees crucially need after four years of exile: the time has come for us to start thinking of interim solutions, which shall be development, resilience and market-oriented”, says Gogo Hukportie, UNHCR Representative in Burkina Faso. “Thus, thanks to the support of IKEA Foundation and along with our partners on the ground, we will build refugees’ skills and assets that they may use to rebuild their lives in the long term, whether they choose to return, to stay or settle in a third country.”