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Every Dream Is Achievable

Improvement of opportunities and development of sustainable income for refugee communities in extreme poverty in Uganda.

Photo of Joseph Mulabbi
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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

PROBLEM Over 1 million Refugee settlers in communities live on extreme poverty on rural communities in Ugandan refugee community settlements. They lack opportunities for developing a sustainable income mainly because of the harsh geography of the region, something that affects mostly the young women of the communities. Because of lack of knowledge, the settlers harm the environment by burning the humid forests to make room for traditional, low profit crops. This practice damages the ground and makes it barren for the future. SOLUTION The sustainable production of white moss (sphagnum moss), product of previously unknown value by the communities, improves the settlers’ income by 25% and helps the environment to recover flora and fauna. It requires no specialized tools or training and allows them to improve their income without having to travel to other locations. Since the harvesting process is simple it can be done by anyone, regardless of age or gender. White moss grows only on especial climatological conditions that are found on the lands in the target areas. It has high demand on Asia, Europe and North America, to where we are currently exporting, because of its unique properties as substratum for the horticulture, humidity retainer (decreases irrigation frequency in plant growth), natural antibacterial (chemical reduction) and retainer of heavy metals. It is used in the growth of orchids, berries, hydroponic crops, and, because of its multiple characteristic, nowadays it is also used as a purifier filter for black waters.

Geography of focus (500 characters)

In Ugnada, over 50% of the population is engaged in agriculture yet the majority of these live on less than $2/day. Limited resources, poor access to agro-processing technologies, lack of farming best practices, and a disconnect from the global market keep farmers from utilizing their abundant land and indigenous crops to their full potential.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

55% of the sales value stays within the communities. This is divided between the harvesters, the transporters and the plant workers, all of which are part of the communities - generating an income and improving their economy sustainably by 25%. Our management plans for the moss add value to their lands, legalises their status as a community and integrates them to the economy. This gives them the chance to obtain better job opportunities and access to support programs from the government.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

The idea creates impact in the communities by providing them with the opportunity to generate additional income in a simple, sustainable and eco-friendly way. Our management plans help integrate them into the economy and give them access to support programs from the government. We also make an impact on the environment by creating awareness about the value of sphagnum moss and the great importance of its care and protection and by supervising the harvesting process to ensure that there is no risk. We also play an important role for the Ugandan Government because the inventory made for the management plans provides crucial information about the real value of the land. We are always improving our production process to increase the quality of our final products and deliver to our clients something that not only is the best for their needs but that has true and proven social and environmental impact.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

We're the only moss processing company in the world that works hand to hand with vulnerable communities. We provide them with a sustainable opportunity to increase their income that, at the same time, actively protects the environment. We sell a high quality product which, due to its natural environment and our own process, has superior properties compared to those of other countries in terms of length of the fibers, water absorption and capacity as antibacterial and heavy metal absorbent. We measure our impact using the following; Quantity (direct): Number of farmers Quantity (in-direct): Number of farmers and family members, Economic Impact: Income provided to farmers.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

On one of the earliest explorations in the North looking for white moss (sphagnum moss), several children joined our party and accompanied us as guides in their own land. I was deeply impressed, more than by the poverty I could see all around me, by the warmth, humility and community sense of solidarity that unites them in the shortage of money, something that I have never seen on the big cities. In that moment, I understood that they’re only poor on resources, not values. Since then we started learning from them as much as they did from us and building a relationship of mutual respect and support that allowed us to make what used to seem as a very hard to achieve dream the reality we have nowadays.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

Our initiative has no restrictions based on age, gender or income level. We welcome every adult who is willing to harvest to become part of our production line. The process is completely voluntary and the settlers are able to do it whenever they decide to. This means that our model is not invasive with their regular activities, something that allows them to occupy their free time between each traditional harvest with the moss and generate additional income in a former empty season. This is most noticeable amongst young women. They are usually tasked with labours, like cattle care, that leave them with lots of free time. The lack of job opportunities forces them to occupy this time with activities which provide them little to no income. Now they can invest that time harvesting moss, improving the general economy of their households and empowering them by making them a key factor of the new opportunities that their families can now access.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Our model consists on the following steps: - Identification and selection of harvesting areas based on moss volume and accessibility. - First contact with the community in which we introduce the company, our goal and explain the characteristics of the moss and the benefits derived from harvesting it. - Training of the potential harvesters on the proper harvesting methods and care of the moss to ensure high quality raw material which preserves the environment and ensures the sustainability. - Development of a management plan to legalise the community, integrating it to the economy and adding value to the land. - Beginning of the harvesting process. Each community presents a different situation and, depending on it, this process can take from 3 months to 1 year. During the time it takes to transform a community into an official supplier of moss we are in constant communication with the communities. We take note of the issues they can be facing and add them to our base line.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Arriving and settling at a destination community

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Product: A new or enhanced physical product that creates value for end beneficiaries

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Blueprint: We are exploring the idea and gathering the inspiration and information we need to test it with real users.

Group or Organization Name

Youth Kontact

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

Our team is composed by a director board of 4 members with years of experience in commercial strategies and impact generation, a group of engineers who are specialist on sphagnum moss and have extensive knowledge of its uses and properties, almost 20 plant workers trained on the handling and proper production of moss, young professionals which provide innovative ideas and new perspectives and a CEO who is also the company's founder and main gear. We have alliances with Peruvian universities to study the moss and further increase our knowledge of its properties and uses and support of state institutions to ensure the moss' preservation and the replication of our model. Once we reach further zones we'll integrate people from the area to our team so they can supervise the harvesting.

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Type of submitter

  • We are not yet a registered organization but plan to register in future

Organization Headquarters: Country


Organization Headquarters: City / State



Join the conversation:

Photo of Zulfiqar Deo

Joseph Mulabbi Thanks for sharing this. Have a look at our approach and be good to see what you think of it? Business financing for refugee entrepreneurs .

Photo of Joseph Mulabbi

You are tackling a real issue Zulfiqar. I would love us to collaborate

Photo of Zulfiqar Deo

Joseph Mulabbi Great - be good to discuss this further in the coming months.

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