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Fish farming refugees use water creatively

Noah Errambona, a Burundian refugee at the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, at the fish pond he and some fellow refugees are using for income. Photo: Jeannethe Lara

March 21, 2015

By Simon Chambers

The Kakuma refugee camp in north-western Kenya is home to 180,000 people who have fled conflicts in Ethiopia, Somalia, Burundi, South Sudan, Uganda, and other African nations.  Originally built to house 40,000 people, Kakuma is located in a semi-arid part of Kenya, meaning that having enough water for over four times its initial population can be a considerable challenge.  And yet Noah Errambona, a Burundian fisherman who wanted to continue to practice his profession even as a refugee, is leading a group of 12 entrepreneurial fellow refugees in running a fish farm.

The group operates three ponds, breeding tilapia for sale.  The men in the group take care of the ponds and fish, and the women clean and sell the fish at the end of the cycle.  Tilapia do not grow as quickly as the group would like, but they are still able to make enough profit to invest in other enterprises and provide extra food for their families.

The fish breeding project would seem, at first glance, to be difficult to support because ponds require a lot of water, a resource in short supply at Kakuma.  But the group has worked innovatively to integrate their project into the community.  The ponds provide water for the crops of refugees who are farming in the camp, for example.  Other groups of refugees are raising chickens, and the chicken droppings are able to be used to feed the growing fish.

NCCK is working with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to secure a more stable water source, which will make the project more sustainable.  PWRDF has been a funding partner to Kakuma since its founding in 1992, and was the only funder of the NCCK program in the camp for several of its early years.  Today, PWRDF continues to fund Kakuma through the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK).

Water will always be a precious resource at Kakuma, but its scarcity will not deter the refugees there from finding ways to work together to improve their own situation.

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