A new beginning for Samuel Maki in the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement in Uganda

After losing his wife and a child during the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Samuel Maki found himself wounded and alone in a refugee settlement in Western Uganda. He is trying to lift himself out of poverty thanks to the IKEA foundation support


Samuel Maki is a 29-year-old male living in Mukunyu A Village, Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, situated in Kikuube District, in Western Uganda. He lost his wife and son during the war-scarred Democratic Republic of the Congo migrated his three daughters to Uganda where they found relief on reuniting with their grandmother who has spent 61 years in the village called Maratatu.

“I relocated all my children to Uganda, making sure they were in my mother's safe custody. I travelled in October 2022 and encountered rebels who chased me along the way, which resulted in an accident after I fell on stones but managed to get away,explains Samuel.

Two months and a few weeks after settling in, Samuel contracted an infection in his left leg. The Refugee Welfare Council II accompanied him to the Rwenyawawa Health Centre where he underwent a week of medical treatment. 

“By the time I returned from the hospital, I found all my assets stolen. From the tarpaulin roof to household items such as blankets, saucepans, a mat, and a basin, I had no alternative but to start from scratch again—build another temporary house and explore means of purchasing other household items,” states Samuel.

He resorted to working as a casual labourer, from which he would gain food and money for necessities. Samuel also practised farming in a garden consisting of groundnuts, beans, and maize for both domestic and commercial use.

The nonexistence of key basic necessities such as clothing and poor housing conditions—a doorless house with a leaky roof — in addition to living in solitude with no assistance, especially when his health was imperfect, demoralised Samuel.

With the introduction of the Sustainable Market Inclusive Livelihood Pathways to Self-Reliance (SMILES) project, his eyes opened to a more fulfilling life. Since then, Samuel has been receiving training in Farmer Field and Business School, Village Saving and Loans Association and Coaching while obtaining a mobile phone and consumption support–a cash stipend of UGX 13,000 (Euro 3.13) for food and other basic needs.

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Samuel Maki in front of his house in the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, Western Uganda

“Currently, I eat twice a day from the consumption support that I receive. The six pathways on the graduation map have also taught me how to lead a better life. I had never had Village Saving and Loans Association experience, and I look forward to getting started with saving. I will continue adhering to the trainings for a better tomorrow,” confesses Samuel.

Samuel emphasised the impact of the Farmer Field and Business School sessions while mentioning some of the steps involved, including the measurements taken during planting, timely weeding, pest management, and the agro-ecosystem. 

“Farmer Field and Business School sessions hugely contributed to my life; I missed none of the lessons due to the wealth of knowledge I continuously acquired and how easily I will apply it to the various practical farming methods," confirms Samuel.

When he harvests his produce, Samuel intends to repair his house, store food for consumption, and purchase some clothes. He aspires to establish a poultry farm, rent extra land for cultivation, and possibly start a retail business in the future.

SMILES project: with IKEA Foundation 70,000 people out of poverty in Uganda

The SMILES project works with 70,000 individuals to help them lift themselves out of poverty through access to group savings, cash grants, technical skilling, foresting linkages and referrals to critical services to support the population to afford basic needs, gain employment, expand their businesses, increase self-efficacy, increase their business and core technical skills, provide access to energy, financial services, quality input and output market to increase household economic capacity

The five-year (November 2022–October 2027) IKEA Foundation-funded project is implemented by AVSI in a consortium with Innovations for Poverty Action, REPARLE, Makerere University Kampala, DAI Global LLC, in partnership with UNHCR and the Office of the Prime Minister in Kyegegwa and Kikuube Districts in Western Uganda.