Hydroponic gardens support livelihoods in Uganda’s refugee settlements

WFP Innovation Accelerator
4 min readSep 8, 2022


By Paul Ngosa Mboshya

Uganda, Africa’s largest refugee response

Uganda has a longstanding history of hosting refugees from Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan. It hosts more refugees than any other country in Africa, with 1.42 million refugees in-country.

Refugees from Imvepi Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda during food distribution. Photo: WFP/Hugh Rutherford
High Energy Biscuits distribution in Bubukwangwa Transit centre, Uganda. Photo: WFP/Brenda Akuruchet

WFP enhances livelihoods in refugee communities in Kyaka II and Kyangwali settlements through H2Grow, WFP’s hydroponics initiative that brings locally adaptable and affordable hydroponic solutions by developing low-tech systems from local materials and growing fresh vegetables in refugee settlements.

Hydroponics is a soilless cultivation technique that uses 90 percent less water and 75 percent less space while producing crops at growth rates 100 percent faster than traditional agriculture.

H2Grow supports food-insecure families to increase their access to fresh food and raise their income.

Hydroponics training

WFP is working with Adventist Relief Agency (ADRA) and Hunger Fighters Uganda to support food-insecure families by training them, increasing their access to fresh vegetables, and raising their income through hydroponic gardens.

So far, 29 farmers participated in the livelihoods training in record keeping and marketing and have so far shown remarkable progress. The farmers have also been supported to set up individual household gardens and fodder systems to feed their small animals.

Makoma Shallotte, a member of Umoja Ni Ngufu Farmer’s Group. Photo: WFP/Solomon Mugulusi

“Twenty-nine refugees underwent classroom and practical training of setting up and maintaining hydroponics gardens and in Kyaka II and Kyangwali Settlements. The farmers are growing lettuce, tomatoes and spinach,” says Solomon Mugulusi, Programme Policy Officer at WFP.

“With the ever-increasing refugee numbers, decreasing land, food security and environmental challenges, WFP is building the resilience of refugees through piloting climate-smart techniques of growing crops such as hydroponics.”

Farmers learning how to grow crops using hydroponics. Photo: WFP/Solomon Mugulusi
Classroom training of farmers. Photo: WFP/Solomon Mugulusi
Training of farmers. Photo: WFP/Solomon Mugulusi.

Kande Rwango Grace is one of the refugees trained to grow and manage hydroponic gardens and the chairperson of Umoja Ni Ngufu, a refugee farmers group of 18 women and 11 men who grow vegetables in the Kyaka II refugee settlement.

Kande (far left) and members of the Umoja Ni Ngufu Farmer’s Group display their certificates collected after a WFP hydroponics training Photo: WFP/Solomon Mugulusi

“Hydroponics is a new, less tedious and easy way of growing vegetables. The crops grow very fast, and the hydroponics system is less tedious than normal farming,” says Kande.

“When COVID-19 hit, our alternative livelihoods were affected. The camp faced a reduction of food rations and due to the influx of refugees, the Government began to reduce the size of the land allocated for refugees.”

The two hydroponic gardens have helped Kande and his farmer’s group enhance and support their livelihoods and the farmers have agreed to consume spinach while they sell tomatoes and lettuce to earn an income.

“Hydroponics has given me hope that if I concentrate on lettuce growing, I can get enough money to supplement my current work and fend for my family.”

Members of the Umoja Ni Ngufu Farmer’s Group check on their lettuce in one of the hydroponics gardens. Photo: WFP/Solomon Mugulusi
Members of the Umoja Ni Ngufu Farmer’s Group check on their tomatoes in one of the hydroponics gardens. Photo: WFP/Solomon Mugulusi

Manual and automatic hydroponic systems used in gardens

WFP in Uganda worked with Hydroponics Farms Uganda to set up two pilot hydroponic garden greenhouses from low-cost local materials.

The manual system consists of raised polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes manually filled with nutrient solutions. The concentration of the nutrient is measured daily and filled up as required.

“The use of local material is important to ensure farmers replicate the systems using locally sourced materials which in turn local economies,” says Solomon.

“The automatic system pilot gardenacts as a demonstration for other livelihood groups and partners of the value hydroponics can offer in refugee settlements.”

Manual hydroponics garden. Photo: WFP/Solomon Mugulusi

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.