“This is my decision” – Naciima found her path as an independent business woman

“This is my decision” – Story of an independent business woman inspires others in Somaliland

Naciima found her way to make her dreams come true while attending to FCA’s Technical and Vocational Education Training.

WHAT DOES an independent businesswoman look like?

Naciima, who recently graduated from Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) programme, is a perfect example. She lives with her family of eleven in Gacan Libaax in Somaliland. They have a very limited income and her father, though he struggles to pay her school fees, has always encouraged her to find something she is passionate about.

“After deciding to drop out from the university, I put my entire focus on the training that I was getting. It was sensational and the most skillful experience I have ever gotten before,” says Naciima, who joined the Finn Church Aid’s TVET program recently.

She got to know about the course from one of her friends who went to the Horn of Africa Voluntary Youth Committee TVET Center. When deciding to apply, she says she felt at peace.

“My dream has always been to design clothes – coming up with ways to make them look fashionable. It was a dream come true when I found out about the training and I immediately joined without consulting my family. However, afterwards I told them about my decision.” 

“Without the training I would not have become the woman I am today”

Naciima says that she gained skills from the tailoring course, including how to start business and practical tailoring skills. During the training, she was inspired by two things. Firstly, the way to come up with new designs and, secondly, the profits she could be make, especially since tailoring skills are in demand the country.

Naciima has become an advocate for TVET and wants to explain the benefits of it and how it leads to profit making.

“Without the training I would not have become the woman I am today – a business woman, an independent woman, and career-oriented individual.”

After graduating from the program, Naciima and the other graduates, received business start-up grants and equipment that helped her to start a business that could also support her family. Her idea was to start a tailoring shop that produces fresh looks in women’s clothing. She knew that the majority of ladies in Somaliland liked to wear tailored clothes and knowing her market helped her come up with her designs.

High hopes for the future

Within the first three months, the business was booming and made a decent profit. She hopes that in future she can support her family even more. At the moment she supports family in other ways than just financially – she makes clothes for her younger siblings. Some of her earning go into servicing her machines but her support for her family motivates her siblings and helps them to believe that they too can start a business and support the family in future.

Naciima is optimistic about the future and dreams of hiring more people for her business to meet the growing demand. This woman, who had waited to be supported by her family, has now become the one who supports them.

“I am able to save the money; average $100–150 in month,” she says. This is what a successful businesswoman looks.

This project is funded by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA)


Text and photos: Mohamed Dugoow

Ugandan Youths and Refugees Trained in Business and Vocational Skills

Ugandan youths and refugees trained in Business and Vocational Skills

Finn Church Aid with partner Enabel has provided Ugandan and refugee youth in Palorinya settlement with necessary business understanding and vocational skills to find opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

The war in South Sudan forced Alex Lojuan, 27, to flee his home and settle in Palorinya Refugee settlement, located in Obongi district in the West Nile sub-region of Uganda. He is one of the 512 youth that enrolled for the GIZ-ENABEL funded project implemented by Finn Church Aid (FCA) in the Palorinya refugee settlement.

“My father died during the war and as the eldest child in the family, I had to take on the mantle of providing for the family. These were the hardest moments of my life, fending for a family in a foreign land,” Alex says.

Alex Lojuan attending to a customer at his Retail shop located in Odraji Village, Zone 1 – Palorinya settlement
Alex Lojuan attending to a customer at his Retail shop located in Odraji Village, Zone 1 – Palorinya settlement. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Alex started laying bricks for income and later got the opportunity to work with Lutheran World Federation (LWF) as a casual worker, distributing soap to refugees during the monthly distribution of food rations and household items in settlements. While at LWF, he received information about the FCA Business and Technical Vocational Education Trainings (BTVET).

“As luck would have it, I was enrolled as one of the FCA business skills trainees. Although, I am yet to finish the business training course, what I have learned so far in the first two modules has instilled in me a positive mindset for success,” Alex says.

Enhanced youth employability

The project ‘Promoting Youth Employability through Enterprise and Skills Development’ (PROYES) began in October 2019 and ended in May 2021. It sought to enhance profitable employment opportunities for refugee and host community youths through skills training and business development support, by equipping the youth with demand-driven vocational and business skills for fluent transition into working life in employment or self-employment.

During the project, FCA trained and mentored young people in Business Start-up and Management and in vocational skills like hairdressing, sandal making, carpentry, tailoring and building construction.

Backed by the training and skills received from the FCA business class training, in March 2020 Alex started up a retail business with the money saved from bricklaying and casual work.

“I used my 300,000 Ugandan Shillings savings to start a retail shop in Odraji Village, Zone 1 in Palorinya settlement. Within seven months, my business capital had doubled. This is in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic situation that has affected most businesses,” Alex says.

“I run my shop with proper business principles learned during the FCA training. I have a business plan, I negotiate with suppliers to get the best deals, practice marketing of my goods, and deliver great customer service in my business,” he adds.

Alex earns a weekly profit of over 30,000 Ugandan Shillings (UGX) and with this money, he is able to take care of his extended family.  He also bought bicycle for himself and put up a temporary structure that houses his retail shop.

Linking learning to earning

In a bid to increase employability chances of the youth trained, FCA provided start-up kits to the trainees who completed the course. The organisation also linked the trainees to available employment opportunities.

By end of the project period, 153 trainees, including 86 males and 67 females, were employed either by the private sector entities where they had attended industrial training or became self-employed.

Gordon Chiria, a 26-year-old Ugandan living in Obongi town managed to set up his dream business after the training.

“I used to grow and sell maize and other crops to support my family.  This business wasn’t successful because I failed to maintain it. After FCA’s training, I started a retail business with a capital of UGX 300,000. Currently I make sales worth UGX 80,000 per day and much more on market days,” Gordon says.

Using his business profits, Gordon managed to buy two goats and support his family. He plans to expand his business to both retail and wholesale. “I appreciate Enabel and FCA’s efforts towards making the livelihood of Obongi community youths better,” he adds.

Focus also on young women’s skills

The project also supported female youths. More than half, 53 % of all beneficiaries were females that benefited from the six skills trades under the project.

FCA supported female participation by establishing four child daycare centres and also facilitated customised career guidance, counselling and life skills training to enable female trainees appreciate the trainings and build their resilience to complete the course.

Esther Kuyang, 25-year-old South Sudanese refugee came to Palorinya refugee settlement with her family in January 2017. “My family and I were depending on the limited resources provided by World Food Programme. The food rations provided were not always enough, yet it was quite hard to get supplementary food due to lack of a source of income,” she recounts.

“While I was still pondering about what to do to take care of my family, FCA came to my aid. With their support, I enrolled for a business entrepreneurship course at Belameling Vocational Training Centre,” Esther tells.

“I had previously been trained by FCA in sandal making. Due to the lack of start-up capital, I was yet to put that skill into practice. During the business training under the FCA-Enabel project, I learned that my real capital was my brain. I immediately started to think of ways to get capital to rejuvenate my previously acquired skills of sandal making.”

Esther Kuyang making sandals in her workshop.
Esther Kuyang a south Sudanese refugee making sandals in her workshop in Chinyi village, Zone 1, Palorinya refugee settlement. Photo: Linda Kabuzire.

“In mid-July 2020, I got a loan of UGX 170,000 from my friend and bought some basic materials such as rubber, thread, beads, for starting a sandal making business. With the business skills acquired in the training like record keeping, marketing and proper accounting, my business started growing. Within two months, I grew my business capital to UGX 200,000. On average, I earn a profit of UGX 28,000 weekly. I am still paying off my loan and I will keep reinvesting the profits in the business. I am also saving with Vision Savings Group, our FCA–Enabel Internal lending group,” she adds.

Esther is the chairperson of the savings group that was formed in January 2020 under the support of FCA-Enabel project. So far she has saved 75,000 shillings with this group. She also bought a bicycle, which facilitates her movements. Esther plans to buy more tools and equipment’s for sandal making, especially those that she currently lacks. She also plans on expanding the business and opening more branches in other trading centres to generate more income.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Business and Technical Vocational Education Training provides opportunities for a brighter future in Ugandan refugee settlements

Business and Technical Vocational Education Training provides opportunities for a brighter future in Ugandan refugee settlements

Finn Church Aid has been providing refugee youth in Uganda business and Technical Vocational Education Training. Their pre-exiting skills were diverse but overall, the programme has provided many with necessary capacities to provide for themselves in the future.

FINN CHURCH AID (FCA) promotes vocational education and entrepreneurship among women and young people in Uganda, a country that has taken in more than a million refugees from its neighbouring countries. No other country in Africa hosts more refugees than Uganda. The majority of them are children and youth who have arrived with varying educational backgrounds and skills to start earning their own living in time to come.

In early 2020, the pandemic had a tremendous impact on self-employment in Uganda. A survey conducted by the UN Capital Development Fund showed that around half of self-employed people fell below the poverty line after one month of lockdown. Fortunately, by the end of the year, the situation was showing signs of improvement.

The work in Kyaka Refugee Settlement is based on FCA’s Linking Learning to Earning (LL2E) approach, establishing functional links between Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and the world of work. FCA Uganda has been implementing BTVET programmes in other Ugandan refugee settlements for several years already. During 2020, 1,925 young people in total received Business and Technical Vocational Education Training (BTVET) in FCA Uganda country programme.

Our trainees and graduates from Kyaka Refugee Settlement share their experiences and thoughts below.

Bashimbe smiles while braiding a client's hair.

Bashimbe Banzuzi, 17

Bashimbe fled the DRC for Uganda in 2018. “There was no peace,” she says. “We couldn’t sleep as we were constantly afraid of what the night would bring.” She arrived with her grandparents and two sisters. Bashimbe is now two weeks into her hairdressing course with FCA and is excited for the future. “I love hairdressing because I know there is demand for it,” she says. “After finishing this course I will be able to support my family. Right now there is no one else who is earning money.”

Charles sits on the ground repairing a motorcycle.

Charles Biyoik, 18

Charles arrived in Uganda from the DRC in 2019. He came alone. “Life was too hard and I wasn’t studying,” he says. In the DRC Charles had a no-skill job in a restaurant. When he arrived in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement he heard an radio advertisement for vocational training and decided to pursue a course in motorcycle repair. “Hopefully, I will one day open my own garage.”

Erian sewing.

Erian Tuyisenge, 17

Erian has lived in Kyaka all her life. Her parents fled Rwanda in 1997, passing through Tanzania before settling in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement. “I was sitting at home doing nothing,” she says. She has just begun a 6 month tailoring course at the FCA’s Vocational training centre. “I know tailoring will provide me a future as there is always demand. So you can earn a lot of money.”

Beni doing another woman's hair in a saloon.

Beni, 21

Beni (standing) arrived in Uganda with her sister after fleeing violence and the murder of their parents in the DRC. “I had very little skills in hairdressing, but when I heard about the program, I knew I wanted to take part so I can help my family,’ she says. Beni and sister Rose went through the training together and in December 2019 they decided to open up a little salon in Kyaka settlement. “Even if we get one or two customers a day we are able to buy some soap, and some food.”

Beni looks to the distance.

Skills are important especially for girls because many, Beni says, are involved in prostitution. “If they have skills, girls can focus on improving their lives and their family’s lives.”

Prince working on a field with others.

Prince Mushesa, 22

Prince crossed the border alone, arriving in Uganda from the DRC in 2019 after rebels had kidnapped his family. When Prince heard from his neighbours that is was possible to study agriculture he was excited as he felt that it was a skill that could help him in the future. “I have been taught new techniques that I didn’t know before,” he says. FCA continues to supports students once they graduate by providing small plots of land for the students to continue to practice their farming. And of course whatever they grew, they keep.

Priska looking lovingly at a baby sitting next to her.

Priska Kabira, 19

Priska is one of many students who are also young mothers. To support their learning, daycare is provided by the school. For Priska, who is studying Tailoring, this has meant she can spend more time in the classroom. “If they didn’t have daycare it would be very difficult. I would have to take her to the classroom and every time she cried I would have to tend to her.” Priska has been in Uganda for four years after fleeing the DRC with her family out of fear of being kidnapped by rebels.

Sonia baking wearing an FCA apron and cook's hat.

Sonia Kalombola, 21

Sonia fled to Uganda with her family in 2010 due to conflict between families that left her uncle murdered. The family first settled in Kampala, capital of Uganda. Urban refugees are expected to be self-reliant but the high costs of living forced the family to Kyaka II where the family now resides. Sonia is currently studying Catering. “I love catering. I love to cook and bake. I hope to be a professional in the future and open a hotel and help others to learn about catering.”

Isabela showing a beautiful top she has made.

Isabela Kabuwo, 23

Isabela settled in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement in 2017 after war forced her to flee the DRC with her family. When she heard about the tailoring course offered by FCA she jumped at the chance. Fast forward to 2021 she now works alongside two other fellow graduates in a small tailoring business on the busiest street in Kyaka. “When we work as a group, we work better,’ she says. Isabela currently rents her sewing machine but is hoping to pay it off in the next couple of months.

Yvonne on a lush field.

Yvonne Ishimye, 19

Yvonne arrived in Uganda in 2017 after fleeing violence in the DRC with her family. Yvonne was already studying agriculture in the DRC and when she was determined to finish her studies however the costs of schooling were too prohibitive. When she learned that FCA offered a course in Agriculture to refugees it filled her with tremendous excitement. “When I was practicing agriculture in the DRC it wasn’t in my heart, but when I came to Uganda it became my ambition,” she says. Since graduating, Yvonne now plants tomatoes not far from her family’s house. Every five months she harvests her tomatoes earning enough money to buy new seeds and provide for her whole family.

Shukuru sitting outside working on metal with a friend in the background.

Shukuru Misago, 20

Shukuru fled to Uganda when as a child with his entire family. In 2020 Shukuru was successful in securing a place in motorcycle repair at the FCA Vocational Training Center in Kyaka II. “There are so many boda boda’s (motorcycle taxis) where I live so I knew there would be a market. Now that I am working and own my own garage I can get everything I need to support my family,” he says. He has grown up seeing FCA’s impact in the settlement. “I want to see other refugees benefit from this programme the way I have benefited.”

Text: Nora Luoma and Erik Nyström
Photos: Hugh Rutherford

Empowering smallholder farmers for sustainable maize production and increased incomes in Rwamwanja refugee settlement

Several smallholder farmers grow maize in Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Uganda. The product has growing markets in nearby areas. Still, due to low productivity and an absence of associative organizations or other platforms for sharing knowledge and empowering local farmers, the markets are not profitable.

Several opportunities to increase income, food security and self-reliance exist, yet the lack of skills in organizing the maize production and making it sustainable remains a challenge. Currently, local buyers – the so-called middlemen – buy the maize at low prices from the smallholder farmers. They add to its value by, for instance, drying or sorting and then sell the maize in towns for much higher prices. Some buyers are processors that grind the maize into flour and other bi-products, such as animal feeds.

Supported by our Food System Lab, the maize farmers will be organized into a strong association that can directly access the maize market without middlemen’s influence.

The Food System Lab Rwamwanja, coordinated by Finn Church Aid, addresses these challenges that refugees and Ugandan women are facing in the settlement by supporting self-sufficiency and community-based extension. Our Food System Lab empowers women smallholders and trains them in improving their maize production in terms of productivity, quality and sustainability, ultimately boosting their access to the maize market.

Supported by our Food System Lab, the maize farmers will be organized into a strong association that can directly access the maize market without middlemen’s influence. This will improve maize prices and smallholder farmers’ income and enhance their socioeconomic wellbeing and societal status.

In the refugee context, the income growth increases household consumption of other food products that complement the World Food Programme’s support of maize meal and beans. To put it simply: refugees earn more money and diversify their diets by affording more nutritious food.

Aiming to change the market system

The vision in our Food System Lab is threefold. Firstly, as the result of improved local extension structure, soil fertility is enhanced, and good maize farming practices are adopted. This, in turn, leads to improved maize yields.

Secondly, value addition through milling and packaging attracts premium price for the product.

Thirdly, by organising themselves better, the smallholder maize farmers can increase their negotiation capacities and thus tap into emerging market opportunities directly, without middlemen’s influence. Our Food System Lab will bring together relevant actors to identify best practices and learnings relating to setting up new livelihood activities in the refugee settlement and developing functioning and equal value chains and market linkages.

The government’s public extension system supports the activities by providing agro-technical knowledge to the farmers to improve maize productivity. The Food System Lab will also establish a Community-based Extension system using Village Enterprise Agents, maize farmers themselves.

Producers will be organized into collectives to sell in bulk and to negotiate prices. Input suppliers provide maize farms with seeds, fertilizers and other necessities related to production, while advisory agencies and NGOs train producers on production techniques. Smallholders can receive financing from micro-finance agencies.

Our Food System Lab will change the market system, making the market increasingly beneficial for low-income maize producers over the upcoming years. By changing the behaviour of market actors, the market works more efficiently and inclusively, responding to the needs of poor households and communities.

Village Enterprise Agents and smartphones improving the knowledge base and communication

One of the key approaches towards achieving increased productivity, sustainable practices and market access is to provide the farmers with the requisite training and on-farm extension support through a community-based extension structure, using a network of Village Enterprise Agents.

To disseminate agro-technical knowledge, the Village Enterprise Agents will be equipped with mobile phones pre-loaded with relevant agricultural content. Our Food System Lab develops an online dashboard to provide timely visibility of field activities, thus enabling timely information sharing, monitoring and learning. Stakeholders at any location will access the online dashboard through a username and password.

Introduction of smartphones in agricultural extension services in hard-to-reach rural areas in Uganda can enable communication with farmers, extension agents and managers in ways that were impossible before.

Nainen kyykkii

Photo: Sharon Shaba.

The adoption of smartphones in agriculture extension has occurred even more rapidly in developed countries than in Uganda. However, its adoption merits particular importance and attention because extension services in Uganda have been characterized by too-few field agents and a lack of communication support infrastructure and budget.

However, the smallholders – the majority of farmers in Uganda – are unlikely to have high levels of education (or could actually be illiterate) and generally with little experience operating mobile phones and related Apps.

These challenges can lead to underuse or abandonment of the technology if proper support is not provided. For this reason, Food System Lab Rwamwanja will combine these approaches in a structured system that trains local Village Enterprise Agents to become ‘professionals’, acting as liaisons to provide assistance and seek information on behalf of other farmers in their community.

This way of using technology combines the best of both approaches; the self-guided nature allows the user to tailor information to each farmer’s specific needs and situation. The organization and training of the Village Enterprise Agents mean that the knowledge they will provide can include up-to-date information to introduce smallholder farmers to new ideas.

Author: Elias Katareiha, Livelihood Program Officer, Finn Church Aid

This article was originally published on the Healthy Food Africa website.

Blockchain can increase the transparency and efficiency of cash-based assistance

Someone makes a donation by smartphone.

1. Donation: The blockchain creates a reference for each donation. The reference allows users to track exactly how their donation is used.

 

Hahmo, josta on korostettu symboleilla sormenjälki, silmä ja kädessä oleva älykortti.

2. Beneficiary registration: Blockchain technology enables electronic registration of beneficiaries, for instance, biometrically through fingerprint or iris scans or with smart cards.

 

Hattuun ja esiliinaan pukeutunut hahmo pitää sertifikaattia kädessään.

3. Verified retailers: Retailers of food and other necessities are equipped with the relevant technology for identifying beneficiaries and trained in using the system.

 

Kaksi hahmoa kättelee.

4. Redemption: The retailer receives payment from the NGO that coordinates the operation for the items they have sold to identified beneficiaries.

 

A notification on smartphone screen that a donation has been redeemed.

5. Monitoring: If transactions are made electronically, the smart contract enables the donor to follow up on how the beneficiary spends the assistance in real-time through an online link.

The benefits and challenges of cash assistance

Cash transfers are one way to ensure that a greater amount of assistance funds directly reaches those in need while also enabling vulnerable families to decide for themselves what they need and prioritise their procurements. Local retailers benefit from increased activity at local markets.

Distributing cash does also bring challenges. The beneficiary is subject to risks by carrying relatively large amounts of cash in a fragile context. To ensure that the money does not instigate fraud or corruption, organisations need to allocate staff for monitoring and follow-ups.

The spread of the coronavirus has also complicated arrangements of cash distributions, and the use of cash increases the risk of transmitting the virus between people at local markets.

With the support of blockchain technology, an organisation can create a virtual wallet for each beneficiary. The beneficiary can then buy necessities from verified retailers equipped with the appropriate identification equipment. Transactions are followed virtually, making monitoring easy, and the blockchain enables safer transactions that protect the identity of the beneficiaries.

Text: Erik Nyström

Illustrations: Tuukka Rantala

A new training kit of animated videos boosts business in Myanmar

Online learning gains new ground among artisans in Myanmar. Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) training on entrepreneurship builds new paths of cooperation that help businesses grow sustainably.

A new toolkit on artisan entrepreneurship inspires a fast-growing community of entrepreneurs in Myanmar, driven by its popularity and increased demand for remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic.

FCA released a package of seven videos under the name of Myanmar Artisan Toolkit (MAT). Thus far, 192 people have completed the training designed to meet the demand for new business opportunities in Myanmar. The country’s tourism and business environment has grown rapidly.

The training consists of animated videos on how to start and run businesses.

The MAT education materials offer guidance on starting and running businesses. The training was translated into animated videos and paired with physical working materials that enable independent learning at home and allowing more people to participate in the training.

A Facebook Messenger Chatbot included in the learning concept allows participants to ask advice from administrators and other members of the online community, and watch additional lectures.

The training particularly benefits those that are already skilled in handicraft but lack experience in running businesses. Nin Nu Htwe makes hand puppets and participated in the live MAT-training in 2019 and took part in the online training during the pandemic.

Nin Ni Htwe has expanded her business with the support of networks she built during the training.

“The Facebook Chatbot was particularly helpful for me. I used to work alone, but now I have a large, expanding network of artisans and trainees who I work with”, Nin says.

The training supports quality and marketing

The videos are available in four languages; Burmese, Rohingya, Rakhine and Pwo Kayin. During the first four months, 1,200 users registered to the service.

Htoo Thint Zin graduated as a MAT trainer in 2019 and gained both skills and a new network of entrepreneurs. Her business focuses on handicraft, and she works with 50 other artisans.

“On top of my business, I teach business skills such as quality control, planning and bookkeeping to youth, women and persons with disabilities”, she says.

The training has helped Htoo Thint Zin’s business to flourish.

Htoo credits the training for improving the quality of their local handicraft as well as expanding the opportunities of delivering the products to markets.

“The training has resulted in social and financial gains for my business partners and me, and soon our products will meet international standards”, she says.

Finn Church Aid (FCA) develops entrepreneurship training in Myanmar in collaboration with Lutheran World Federation Myanmar (LWF).

Photos: Myat Kyaw Thein

The success story of responsible investment pioneer Emmanuel Obwori began 20 years ago in a Ugandan computer hall

Ugandan Emmanuel Obwori, 40, has founded and run five different businesses during his lifetime, all of which have been successful. Now he has a job that no one in Finland had done before January 2019.

In the autumn of 2018, when Finn Church Aid became the first humanitarian organisation in Finland to found its own investment company, FCA Investments, taking the position of investment manager was a natural decision for Emmanuel Obwori.

Obwori has always had a knack for business.

Born and raised in Ugandan capital of Kampala, Obwori first became an entrepreneur at age 16 while on summer holiday from school.

”Back then, my father worked for Sony, and one day he brought home a computer. At the time, computers were still very rare in Uganda. At first, I used it to play games, but then it occurred to me that I could teach other people how to use it as well. I started giving computer lessons on my parents’ balcony for a small charge.”

Obwori used the money he made from the computer lessons to buy baking supplies and started baking sesame cakes.

”The neighbourhood children coming home from school were always looking for something to snack on. I made quite a lot of money selling the cakes. My parents ended up being angry with me because I focused more on my business ventures than I did on schoolwork,” Obwori laughs.

Later, Obwori became an assistant in a computer hall near his university. When the elderly man who owned the hall wanted to retire, Obwori persuaded him to sell the hall to him on credit, with Obwori paying him back once the business would become profitable.

”I soon noticed that children and young people were mainly interested in computer games, so my younger brother and I turned the hall into a gaming arcade. It was one of the first gaming arcades in Kampala and is currently the biggest in the city. My younger brother still runs it.”

Obwori sees a great deal of unexplored potential in combining traditional development cooperation and sustainable investment.

”Most people think of this as a zero-sum game; you either work for a non-governmental organisation or for the private sector. In fact, the two complement each other. Non-governmental organisations are good at providing emergency aid: delivering food, shelter and drinking water as well as offering education and immediate income support. But if we leave it there, the recipients of aid will depend on our support for the rest of their life.”

Finn Church Aid’s investment company invests in small and medium enterprises in developing countries in order to offer people work and an income even after aid organisations have left the country. As an investment manager, Obwori’s job is to seek out and assess potential enterprises.

”We choose the entrepreneurs and businesses that already have the biggest positive impact on their communities. We invest in these businesses to help them grow and employ more people. This way, these businesses lift the community out of poverty for good.”

Text: Elina Kostiainen
Translation: Leena Vuolteenaho

FCA Investments commits 4 million euros to Yield Fund Uganda

Finn Church Aid founded the company FCA Investments Ltd to boost job creation in developing and fragile countries. Its second investment targets the agriculture sector in Uganda.

Finland invests in small businesses through FCAI

  • Finland will invest 16 million euros in small businesses that create jobs through FCA Investments Ltd (FCAI), a company established by FCA.
  • The loan granted to FCA is a so-called development policy investment.
  • Read more about development policy investments on the website of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs: um.fi/kehityspoliittiset-finanssisijoitukset
Finn Church Aid’s investment company FCA Investments Ltd (FCAI) announced its second investment on Thursday June 27th in Kampala. FCAI committed 4 million euros to the Ugandan Yield Fund, which targets agriculture-related businesses in Uganda across all value chains.

Yield Fund was launched by The European Union (EU), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in January 2017, and it is also backed by The Soros Economic Development Forum (SEDF).

The fund’s support to agriculture includes supply of agricultural inputs, production and agro-processing within all sub-sectors, post-harvest storage and distribution, but also peripheral activities such as transportation, communications and certification.

“This is a unique opportunity to invest in solid local expertise in the agriculture sector, with strong international support”, says FCAI’s CEO Jukka-Pekka Kärkkäinen.

Yield Fund is a partnership between public and private investors that offer innovative and tailored financial solutions, using equity, semi-equity and debt to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). It has the potential to generate both strong financial returns and significant social impact.

“The model looks at the entire value chain and matches the investment with tailor-made technical assistance. Investee companies can increase production and productivity in a robust manner. This concept is scalable and can be copied to other, even more fragile countries”, Kärkkäinen says.

Investments in agriculture change lives in Uganda

Yield Fund seeks to support businesses with a clear competitive advantage and ambitious local management. The fund will benefit the Ugandan economy by improving an estimated 100,000 rural household livelihoods, and increasing access to markets for an estimated 26,000 farmers.

Emmanuel Obwori, Investments Manager for FCA Investments speaking at the press conference. Photo: Erik Nyström / FCA

Emmanuel Obwori, Investments Manager for FCA Investments speaking at the press conference. Photo: Erik Nyström / FCA

It also creates jobs and employment opportunities, ensures food security while generating income, foreign exchange and new export opportunities – all fundamentally contributing to Uganda’s economic growth and the objectives of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Investments in the agricultural sector is the surest way of changing lives in Uganda, says Emmanuel Obwori, Investment Manager at FCA Investments.

“Employing over 70% of Uganda’s working population, the agricultural sector is Uganda’s largest employer, but it contributes only 25 percent to the GDP”, Obwori says.

“The agricultural sector is also the least productive, inevitably trapping the majority of Uganda’s population in cycles of seasonality and hunger.”

Grassroots level investments during the next three years

Emmanuel Obwori, Investment Manager for FCAI (left) and Edward Isingoma, Managing Parnter for PCP / Yield Fund. Photo: Erik Nyström / FCA

Emmanuel Obwori, Investment Manager for FCAI (left) and Edward Isingoma, Managing Parnter for PCP / Yield Fund. Photo: Erik Nyström / FCA

To date, Yield Fund has made investments of over 1,9 million euro in SESACO limited, an agro-processing company specialising in soya products, CECOFA, a coffee processor, and Chemiphar, an analytical laboratory providing testing and inspection services to SME businesses.

The fund is managed by Pearl Capital Partners (PCP) Uganda, with the mandate to make investments ranging from 250,000 to 2 million euros. Managing Partner Dr. Edward Isingoma says that PCP’s and FCAI’s ideologies of supporting vulnerable smallholder farmers match perfectly.

“Some of the key principles from which Yield Fund Uganda was established are about the unique, conducive agri-business environment, work against climate change and the potential of bringing about real change in the lives of smallholder farmers and rural communities”, Isingoma says.

By utilizing PCP’s and FCAI’s impact Investing experiences and principles, Isingoma believes that the efforts will also create core foundations from which the SME agri-business sector and smallholder farmer communities can develop and grow together.

“We shall be looking forward to making strategic, effective and efficient on the ground investments over the next three years and are excited at partnering with FCAI not only as an investor, but also in impact measurement, reporting, SME growth capitalization and more.”

Dr. Edward Isingoma, Managing Parnter for PCP / Yield Fund speaking at the launch event. Photo: Erik Nyström / FCA

Dr. Edward Isingoma, Managing Partner for PCP / Yield Fund speaking at the launch event. Photo: Erik Nyström / FCA

FCAI plans more investments in the near future

FCA Investments was founded in 2018 to invest in socially and environmentally responsible businesses that create jobs, raise the income level of low-paid employees, and reduce poverty.

The Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs granted FCAI a loan of 16 million euros for investment activities that support this objective. The creation of jobs plays a key role in the fight against poverty and inequality in developing countries. Jobs are also key to sustainable peace.

According to a World Bank estimate, the world should create more than 600 million jobs during the next 15 years in order to give its growing population opportunities for decent livelihoods.

The next investment after Uganda will possibly target Somalia, and as resources grow, investment activities can also be launched in, for example, Cambodia, Jordan, Kenya, Myanmar, and Nepal.

“We have now made two SME fund investments, the other one being in Asia. These investments are important for risk diversification and information sharing”, Kärkkäinen says.

“True impact investors are happy to share the lessons they have learnt and help others so that they do not need to invent the wheel again. The expertise we have teamed with is extremely valuable when entering into environments that are more fragile.“

Finnish education export to developing countries on the rise – new batch of students graduate from Finnish entrepreneurship programme in Uganda

Finn Church Aid (FCA) exports Finnish vocational diplomas to Uganda in cooperation with education export company Omnia Education Partnerships (OEP).

The diploma in question is an official Finnish vocational diploma, equivalent in its requirements to a Finnish secondary degree diploma.

The training programme is currently provided at a refugee settlement in Uganda. The first group obtaining Finnish entrepreneurship diploma at Rwamwanja refugee settlement are graduating on March 28, 2019.

There are more refugees in the world than ever, and it is estimated that only one in five will receive a secondary degree education. The average length of displacement is 20 years.

“What makes this programme exceptional is the fact that refugees are able to obtain a diploma while they are displaced, which helps them find employment already during displacement. A secondary degree education that is offered in crisis areas decreases dependence on aid and provides support where it is most needed”, says Tomi Järvinen, Director of International Cooperation at FCA.

In Uganda, FCA and OEP currently provide vocational diplomas in entrepreneurship. In the future, the plan is to also provide vocational qualification in education and instruction. The programme welcomes refugees as well as Ugandans to participate in the training.

Regina Meta, 18, fled to Uganda from Congo with her mother and sister in 2016, and is now studying in the Finnish entrepreneurship programme. With confidence gained from the programme, the young woman has opened her own hair salon, which is now among the most popular in the refugee settlement.

“Hairstyling has always been my passion. Thanks to the programme, I have learned a lot, especially about how to interact with clients. These days, I get lots of new clients based on the recommendations by my old clients”, Regina says.

Thanks to legislation that came into force in Finland last year, all vocational education providers have the opportunity to export vocational education, either as complete diploma programmes or as parts of them.

The reform is an important step forward for the export of Finnish education, and also a new form of sustainable development cooperation. It reinforces the ability of refugees to pursue their livelihood.

The project is a pilot that can be later used to provide vocational training in other refugee settings.

More information:

Ville Wacklin, Project Manager, tel. +358 40 719 0592

Tomi Järvinen, Director of International Cooperation, tel. +358 40 641 8209

Read more about FCA College here.

Translation: Leena Vuolteenaho

A little chocolate shop, organic vegetables and furniture restoration – entrepreneurship training provides new beginnings in Jordan

Young saplings are growing in plastic mugs planted into plastic tubes. A pump circulates water for 15 minutes once every two hours. Tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers, peppers, strawberries and flowers are grown on the flat roof. Tarpaulins protect the pots from too much sun.

The rooftop garden is a hydroponics prototype built by Ibrahim Milhem, 45, in Irbid, the third largest city in Jordan.

Ibrahim, who is an engineer, previously worked in fertiliser and cement companies. After he became unemployed, the life of the family with seven children changed and they ended up losing their house.

”I love plants and trees and planting them,” says Ibrahim.

Ibrahim and layal sitting in the living room.

Ibrahim Milhem’s daughter Layal is eager to help her father and follows his activities in the rooftop garden. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist/FCA.

The living room walls in Ibrahim’s brother’s house, which is where the family lives now, are full of paintings made by Ibrahim, who is an avid painter; most depict trees and plants.

However, irrigation is expensive, because there is a water shortage in Jordan.

Ibrahim set about solving the problem and found information about hydroponics online. Around the same time, he heard about the entrepreneurship training organised by Finn Church Aid (FCA). The training helped him hone the idea of a business of his own. In addition, he learned about marketing, of which he had no prior experience.

Hydroponics is brand new in Jordan, but being resourceful, Ibrahim used his brother’s rooftop to build his own prototype that he now plans to develop and expand.

The hydroponic plantation saves about 80 percent water compared to regular growing.

”At first I didn’t believe it, but I gave it a try and it’s true,” says Ibrahim, who is constantly studying more and learning by doing.

His aim is to have a garden producing organic vegetables that welcomes customers to come and pick their own vegetables.

Finnish entrepreneurship training gave encouragement

Jordan has an unemployment rate of over 18 percent, and the number is much higher still for women and young people.

A country with a population of 9.5 million, Jordan has reveiced over a million refugees since 2011. This is the second highest number relative to population after Lebanon. Most have run away from the war that is in its eighth year now in neighbouring Syria.

From 2017 to 2018, FCA cooperated with Mercuria Business College to organise compact entrepreneurship courses to refugees and Jordanians in the most vulnerable positions. After a two-month training period, participants received mentoring and a small start-up grant.

55 people participated in the courses, and so far they have started a total of 49 businesses, some of which already employ others as well. Over half of those who have started businesses are women and ten percent are persons with disability.

Flowers and awareness education

Asma'a and Hussam standing in front of the shelves with gift packages in their shop.

Asma’a (left) and Hussam think that starting a business has not been too difficult. What has preoccupied them the most is how to make interaction with customers work as deaf people. To help with this, they are developing an application using pictures and sign language.

Jordanian friends Asma’a and Hussam, both deaf, attended the entrepreneurship course and learned skills such as marketing, financial planning, and customer service. They are in the process of setting up a flower shop on their block.

We are developing an application that works through a flat-screen television and allows us to communicate with our customers, because there are very few sign language interpreters in Jordan,” says Asma’a.

”At the same time, we can provide awareness education and bring attention to the position of deaf people in society.”

Both Asma’a and Hussam are highly educated. Both have often been invited to job interviews based on their CVs, but being deaf has prevented them from landing the job.

The first flower shop in the neighbourhood has already been beautifully furnished in preparation for the opening a few weeks later. All that remains is the fresh flowers that need to be picked up from the wholesale supplier.

A hobby turned into livelihood

Ranaa stands in front of her shop.

Ranaa Abu Atta founded the Reeno chocholates & sweets after attending  Finn Church Aid’s entrepreneurship training. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist/FCA.

Jordanian Rana Abu Atta, 23, is displeased, although without an interpreter, we would not have noticed from all the smiles and laughter. Because of scheduling issues, we have come to see her a day earlier than we originally agreed upon, and she has not had time to fill the display cases with her most intricate chocolates. Even so, the shelves, just like our bellies later on, are full of delicious desserts and sweets piled in front of us for tasting.

Rana was forced to quit her studies in business administration because of her family’s financial difficulties.

She wanted to do something to help her family. Rana decided to start making chocolates. She got the idea from a video she saw on Facebook. It gave her the desire to learn more, and she searched YouTube for more videos.

Although making sweets looked fun, Rana found it is not always easy. She kept trying and published her own video on Facebook featuring sweets she had made. People liked the video, and orders started coming in.

Rana noticed an advertisement for the entrepreneurship training organised by FCA, applied for the course, and got in.

Now Rana has her own shop with one employee. The bank loan for the shop is in the name of her mother, who has supported her daughter in setting up her business. The chocolates and desserts are still made in the home of the family, and she dreams of expanding to bigger premises including a large kitchen.

”Having my own premises has increased people’s trust in my products. They think that if I have the confidence to open my own shop, my products must be good. My income has increased since opening the shop,” says Rana.

Rana with her mother in the chocolate shop.

”One of the most beautiful things is my own daughter’s dreams coming true. I’m so proud of her,” says Rana’s mother Amal Fawzi. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist/FCA.

A new beginning in a new country

Omar Balkhi with his tools.

Omar Balkhi provides for his family by manufacturing traditional Syrian furniture and providin furniture restoration and repairing services. Photo: Dana Mufleh /FCA.

Omar Balkhi was wounded in the Syrian war: grenade shrapnel took his legs. The father of two ran with his family from Syria to Jordan. In his new home, Omar fought to find a way to provide for his family.

He wanted to start his own workshop, but he did not know how.

”Now I can run my own business and I have the drive to go on. I can develop my work and get information on my competitors. I’ve learned leadership skills and marketing. Before, I didn’t understand how important these skills are,” says Omar after the FCA training.

In his workshop, Omar plans to sell traditional Syrian wooden furniture that he builds by hand. The business also provides furniture restoration and repair services.

Legislation limits refugees’ entrepreneurship

Refugees and Jordanians attending the course have started joint business ventures.

”It’s good to build a business with a Jordanian partner. Unfortunately, there is no law or official document to corroborate my right to own a business. I’m constantly worried of losing my business”, says one of the Syrian entrepreneurs in the project.

Based on the experiences from the project, Finn Church Aid is cooperating with other international non-governmental organisations, using their influence to create a clear legal framework for joint business ventures in Jordan. This would allow Syrians to work as entrepreneurs with Jordanians as equal partners and to benefit the Jordanian economy.

A big water tank and pot garden on the rooftop.

Jordan is one of the driest countries in the world. Both cities and farming are suffering from water shortage. Ibrahim Milhem’s  rooftop garden is a little oasis in the city. The kids of the family like to spend time there. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist/FCA.

Text: Minna Elo
Photos: Tatu Blomqvist ja Dana Mufleh.

The project was funded by the European Regional Development and Protection Programme for the Middle East (RDPP), supported by the European Union, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.