Enhancing local trade for host communities and refugees through market infrastructure
August 31, 2023
When the UNDP team saw Aserua Frukeri approaching us when we arrived at Dongo, Itula sub-county, Obongi district, we immediately thought the woman was a local elected leader, here conducting the formalities of welcoming us as we undertook a monitoring exercise of a critical piece of community infrastructure. Her welcoming smile made us feel at ease amidst local community members and leaders with whom this joint monitoring exercise was being conducted. When she interjected, as the project contractor provided an overview of the status of construction works, we soon realized she was the Vice Chairperson of the community market committee, established by the Itula sub-county government to oversee construction of this modern community central market for the subcounty. We became curious about her concerns, since she represented hundreds of others who would benefit directly from this modern center of local commerce. She definitely had important community perspectives that needed to be listened to and adopted as the project moved toward its completion.
The construction of a modernized central market in Itula sub-county is one of a variety of interventions seeking to provide a space through which local communities and refugees can advance their local trading options, providing an avenue to advance sustainable income generation and thus secure livelihood opportunities across the sub-county.
Following a comprehensive tour of the facility we settled underneath the shade of a large tree adjacent to the new market, a tree that had for many years served as the community market prior to this project. While we learnt about the interesting utilitarian value of the tree over the decades, we also heard that it offered little relief against the rain, the scorching sun, strong winds and unsanitary condition of products that were traded mostly while being placed on the ground.
Conversations were moderated by the Obongi district Deputy Chief Adminsitrative Officer, the sub-county councilors and the district engineer. It was at this point that Ms. Aserua Frukeri was able to share her points in full, emanating from her own regular interactions with the ongoing construction process. We heard important insights about the women’s nursing room, constructed specifically to provide privacy to mothers. Their children needed to accompany them to the market on a daily basis; they needed to be breastfed regularly and also have opportunities throughout the day to sleep without interruption.
Conversations took place about harvesting and storage of fresh rain water, from the massive roof structure of the new market to supplement borehole water which was slightly salty. Additionally, community-local government discussions took place in respect to opening of the surrounding road access, this being seen as important in enabling goods to be delivered through the main access gates. Councilors present even proposed to table the roads issue at the forthcoming council meeting for consideration, in respect to allocation of government reseources to facilitate the road opening.
Discussions also touched on landscaping, planting of fruit trees around the market, placement of solar fixtures and power access points. In the course of these discussions, it was quite clear that the market project had stimulated meaningful community participation actions in their local governance issues. As the visiting team, we saw the significance of this effective community participation process as a foundation for ensuring post project sustainability, strengthening the foundation for ownership that the community had generated for this project.
At the time of writing, Dongo market construction is over 85% complete. It will be one-of-a-kind in Obongi District. At over 770 square meters, the modern market will include 120 lock-up stalls, terrazzo floors and worktops, management office, nursing room, solar lighting and charging points, fresh water harvesting and access points, latrines and rubbish pit bunkers. The Obongi District Government, Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and UNDP have been collaborating for over 3 years under the Uganda Host and Refugee Community Empowerment Project (UHRCEP), aiming to support Obongi District host communities and refugees living in different settlements with a variety of interventions aligned with Uganda’s policy framework for refugees - the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF). The CRRF supports host communities and refugees to fully benefit from the policy and programmatic provisions for effective and integrated dividends of humanitarian, development and peace actions.
By David Maina, Humanitarian Development and Peace Nexus Specialist