Uganda—Sustainable Market Inclusive Livelihood Pathways to Self-Reliance Program (SMILES)

Client: IKEA Foundation

Duration: 2022-2027

Region: Sub-Saharan Africa

Country: Uganda

Solutions: Sustainable Business

The IKEA Foundation is one of the world’s largest private funders committed to helping refugees achieve economic self-reliance and sustainable livelihoods.

The Sustainable Market Inclusive Livelihood Pathways to Self-Reliance program (SMILES) seek to address rural refugee livelihood challenges in Uganda. SMILES aims to help ultra-poor refugee and Ugandan (host community) households in the Kikuube and Kyegegwa Districts graduate from food insecurity and fragile livelihoods to self-reliance and resilience.

The project combines a graduation approach, led by AVSI, and a market systems development (MSD) approach, led by DAI in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), REPARLE, Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), and the University of Makerere.

Sample Activities

  • Conduct gender, youth, climate risk, and market systems assessments in target refugee areas.
  • Partner with national agri-input suppliers and buyers to expand the commercial potential of refugee and host community farmers in value chains such as maize, beans, and horticulture.
  • Incentivize fintech providers to use digital platforms to partner with local refugee-led Savings and Credit Cooperative Organizations (SACCOs).
  • Build last-mile distribution networks with clean energy enterprises to expand solar pay-as-you-go business models to expand refugee livelihoods activities (such as household lighting, solar-powered irrigation, and affordable power to run a fridge in their microenterprises).
  • Design randomized control trials to test new models for integrating the graduation and MSD approaches.


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