UN World Food Programme

Donkeys Deliver Food And Business to Somali Refugees

Awa Hussein Muse and her donkey

Copyright: WFP/Rose Ogola

Somali refugees living in northern Kenya are starting small businesses thanks to an income generation initiative launched by WFP and CARE International.

DADAAB REFUGEE CAMP -- Standing proudly next to her thriving donkey, Awa Hussein Muse praises the project that delivered the animal – along with a cart.

 “Since my group got a donkey and a cart, we are able to carry full rations of food home,” says the 30-year-old Somali refugee. “In addition, we are able to engage in small income generating activities, such as carrying mud bricks for the construction of houses for a small fee, for people who are not part of our group.”

Launched last year by WFP and CARE International, the income generation initiative – in which proceeds from selling empty WFP food bags go to buying the animals and carts -- offers Hussein Muse and other Somali refugees languishing here a foothold out of their grim existence.

Business skills

The agency has provided food assistance since 1991 to some 330,000 refugees living in Dadaab and another refugee camp in northern Kenya.  Like Hussein Muse, most fled clashes in neighbouring Somalia, which has lacked a functioning government for nearly two decades.

Participants in the income generation initiative also learn business skills and entrepreneurship. So far, 150 refugees – 15 groups in total – have benefitted from the effort. They include the elderly and the disabled. Most are women.

The donkeys spare the refugees the cost of transporting heavy sacks of WFP flour, pulses and other rations to their camps. Hussein Muse’s group has done more -- using the donkey it received in December to start a modest transportation business.

Plans to expand

The proceeds are used to buy milk, sugar and meat to supplement the women’s WFP rations – and to feed the animal.  “With the savings, we have bought a second donkey and very soon we will have a cart for it,” Hussein Muse says.

Hussein Muse arrived in this overcrowded refugee camp in 1992, after fleeing Somalia's Lower Juba Province when militiamen attacked her family. The assailants killed her brother, raped her sister-in-law and looted the family’s property.

Now a mother of five, she relies mainly on WFP to feed her family.

“Having been born here, my children don’t know any other home,” Hussein Muse says, “and personally, I don’t foresee us returning to Somalia anytime soon considering that the situation there continues to deteriorate.”