Home Institution

George Washington University

Publication Date

Spring 2014

Program Name

Uganda: Post-Conflict Transformation


One of the key tenets of Ugandan refugee policy is the Self-Reliance Strategy (SRS), a policy that expects refugees to economically support themselves by utilizing a given plot of land to develop a livelihood based on subsistence agriculture. Although many have hailed this policy as being progressive and beneficial for the refugees, others have pointed out the flaws and deficiencies in the policy and in its implementation. The research utilizes a case-study of Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Western Uganda to assess the implementation and impacts of the SRS in Uganda. Semi-structured interviews with refugees, settlement officials, aid workers, and academics form the basis for the collected data and present a multi-layered approach to analyzing the topic. Furthermore, participant observation as an intern with the Office of the Prime Minister and various other organizations within the settlement further informed the research with first-hand experience in the implementation of the SRS. The study demonstrates that although the policy has had success within the settlement, its narrow focus on subsistence agriculture makes it inadequate for many refugees due to their diverse cultural, occupational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Additionally, the agricultural expectation of the SRS is undermined by inadequate land and unpredictable weather, and as a result the policy has failed to create food security for refugees. Furthermore, investigation into the dynamics of refugee livelihoods in the settlement finds that official efforts to promote self-reliance have had difficulties overcoming the inherent restrictions of the settlement system. The research concludes with recommendations for improving refugee self-reliance, many of which underscore the need to refine the agricultural requirements of the policy as well as allowing refugees to more easily pursue alternative sources of livelihood.


Agricultural and Resource Economics | Civic and Community Engagement | Demography, Population, and Ecology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Other Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Social Welfare


Article Location