The Kalobeyei Model: Towards Self-Reliance for Refugees?

Executive Summary

The Kalobeyei settlement was opened in Turkana County in Kenya in 2016 with the intention of promoting the selfreliance of refugees and the host population and delivering integrated services to both. Its development is guided by the Kalobeyei Integrated Social and Economic Development Programme (KISEDP), led by the Government of Kenya (GoK), the Turkana County Government, UNHCR, and partners. The Kalobeyei settlement was designed to offer integrated, market-based opportunities to both refugees and the host community, and to support self-reliance for refugees. Its assistance model differs from that of the nearby Kakuma camp in a range of ways. For example, it offers cash-based interventions to meet housing, nutritional, and other material needs, specific training to support the entrepreneurial potential of refugees and hosts, and agricultural projects to promote dryland farming and household ‘kitchen gardens’. Since 2018, the KISEDP has been expanded in scope to serve as a development plan for the entire sub-country of Turkana West, based on eight interconnected components: health; education; water, sanitation, and hygiene; protection; spatial planning and infrastructure; agriculture, livestock, and resources; sustainable energy; and private sector development and entrepreneurship.

This report is based upon the midline findings of a 3-year study following newly arrived refugees integrated into the new Kalobeyei settlement and the old Kakuma refugee camp since 2016. The newly arrived refugees were allocated between the two contexts based on their date of arrival.

In the study, we follow newly arrived South Sudanese refugees in both Kalobeyei and Kakuma in order to compare outcomes over time, and identify what difference the Kalobeyei settlement makes in comparison to the Kakuma model. We also follow newly arrived Ethiopian and Burundian refugees within Kalobeyei. The report covers two waves of data collection with the same randomly sampled respondent population, carried out in 2017 and 2018.

Our overall study has three main aims. First, to create baseline indicators for monitoring refugees’ self-reliance and socio-economic conditions in Kalobeyei. Second, to assess changes over time in those indicators. Third, to compare the trajectory of change with a comparable cohort of recently arrived refugees in Kakuma. Through these aims, we seek to inform government interventions, as well as the policies and practices of relevant international organisations (IOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Kalobeyei on specific KISEDP goals, including the formation of a ‘hybrid’ community of refugees and the local host population, the formation of new markets, and the promotion of self-reliance.

In order to develop baselines and assess progress towards self-reliance, we draw upon the self-reliance framework developed by Betts, Omata, and Sterck.1 The framework is based upon UNHCR’s definition of self-reliance, and outlines indicators for both self-reliance outcomes and self-reliance enabling factors relevant to the individual, household, and community levels. It understands selfreliance as a bi-dimensional concept, comprising both the attainment of essential socio-economic needs and the capacity to meet such needs independently from aid.

Our comparison of outcomes between Kalobeyei and Kakuma is based on the assumption that refugees’ distribution across the settlement and camp is quasirandom. Indeed, selection was based mostly upon their date of arrival. However, our 2017 and 2018 surveys reveal that the cohorts newly arrived refugees in the South Sudanese households in Kalobeyei are younger, have a lower proportion of adults, and a higher number of single femaleheaded households. These demographic differences suggest that new arrivals in Kalobeyei may come from different parts of South Sudan and have fled different circumstances than those in Kakuma. Consequently, any comparison of outcomes for newly arrived South Sudanese in Kalobeyei and Kakuma must also take into account these differences. This report includes the results of regression analysis, which aims at controlling for some of these factors.

Generally, indicators for self-reliance outcomes for newly arrived refugees in Kakuma and Kalobeyei are similarly poor: most refugees are dissatisfied with their lives, food insecurity is highly prevalent, dietary variety is low, access to healthcare remains limited, and most refugees report being completely or mostly dependent on food.

Interestingly, Kalobeyei residents have achieved slightly higher levels of dietary diversity, food consumption, calorie intake, and food security. These outcomes correlate with possessing a (harvested) kitchen garden. Kalobeyei also offers higher levels of interaction between the refugee and host communities, although participation in sports and community associations is greater in Kakuma.

In terms of self-reliance enabling factors, our analysis suggests that, despite gradual improvement, enabling factors are currently too weak to offer a realistic prospect of refugee self-reliance in the short run. One of the biggest socio-economic challenges relates to employment.

Employment levels for refugees are extremely low, especially among South Sudanese. For those who are employed, most are ‘incentive workers’ with NGOs, which are generally low pay positions that are exempt from the protections provided by national labour regulations. Economic activities are hampered by the environmental and geographical context, and by the legal barriers to refugees’ employment and mobility. Asset ownership and access to capital and remittances remain low. Public goods provision is mixed but fairly consistent across both camps, with relatively good access to education, some mild improvements in access to water and security, and limited access to healthcare and electricity.

There are some encouraging patterns of progressive change across both the Kalobeyei and Kakuma contexts. For example, subjective wellbeing has improved significantly in both sites since 2017. There are also slight improvements in terms of indicators of social cohesion and refugee-host community interactions. Perceptions of water access and security are gradually improving. Across both contexts, a significant proportion of adults are enrolled in education programmes. For indicators related to agriculture and animal husbandry, improvements are only observed in Kalobeyei. The percentage of households engaged in smallscale agriculture has also increased in Kalobeyei, while it has declined for recently arrived South Sudanese in Kakuma. There is increased animal ownership in Kalobeyei following a livestock distribution programme.

One way that KISEDP aims to increase employment opportunities is by fostering the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Kakuma. WFP’s Retail Engagement Initiative, for example, aims to promote business, especially among food retailers, including through business training and supply chain development.

Furthermore, the IFC’s Kakuma-Kalobeyei Challenge Fund aims to encourage businesses and entrepreneurs from elsewhere to invest in Kakuma. These efforts may increase opportunities for employment.

The Bamba Chakula (BC) model of food distribution in Kalobeyei has been broadly effective as a transition arrangement between in-kind assistance and unrestricted cash assistance. It has, for example, offered refugees greater choice, reduced the need for beneficiaries to sell food rations at discounted prices, created business opportunities, and injected money into the local economy. The model has been popular with refugees in Kalobeyei, and points to the benefits of using cash-based rather than in-kind assistance.

Meanwhile, the kitchen gardens are associated with better food security outcomes.

Overall, however, it is clear that refugees in Kakuma and Kalobeyei remain a long way from achieving self-reliance. Despite some progress, most refugees are unable to meet their basic socio-economic needs. Furthermore, even for refugees that do meet some of those needs, they are unable to do so independently of aid. This is because, despite a range of progressive market-based interventions, the economies of both Kakuma and Kalobeyei remain based almost entirely on international assistance.

Self-reliance ultimately relies upon fostering economic growth and connecting Kakuma, Kalobeyei, and Turkana County to the national and global economies. Retail markets currently add limited value to sectors that are not dependent on international assistance. Consequently, although some refugees are able to meet their basic socio-economic needs, they cannot yet be considered to do so independently of aid. To achieve self-reliance at a community level requires that Kakuma and Kalobeyei become capable of producing goods or services that can be exported beyond the local economy. Self-reliance in relation to food, for example, will only occur if revenue from other sectors increases and people spend the additional revenue on food. The most viable means for international actors to promote this is by investing in self-reliance enabling factors, such as better public goods provision, improved social cohesion between refugees and hosts, and improved market regulation.

Source: World Food Programme