Livelihood assistance

A survivor in Western Sahara

AOAV seeks to provide support for the population affected by the contamination of cluster munitions, landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW), to facilitate implementation of Article 5 of the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) relating to victim assistance. This includes individuals and the families of those who have been physically injured, as well as the Saharawi population residing in refugee camps, which are a legacy of armed violence and continued political impasse.

One of the key activities for the Western Sahara programme during 2012 has been to facilitate collection of data on victims and affected populations. Data collection and needs assessments are key implementation measures under the CCM and Mine Ban Treaty. Following-up the needs assessment with concrete actions ensures long term engagement and tangible improvements in the lives and livelihoods of victims and survivors of Western Sahara.

In partnership with the Saharawi Association for the Victims of Mines (ASAVIM), AOAV conducted a survey to assess the needs and aspirations of victims and the services to affected populations. Survivors were a driving force in shaping the process: they were members of the survey team and involved in outreach, building communities’ confidence in the survey. Working in partnership with survivors and local organisations, AOAV will support projects that respond to the following strategic priorities identified in the survey:

1. Improving access to livelihoods opportunities;
2. Improving access to quality healthcare and services;
3. Enhancing capacities and skills and improving access to training and education;
4. Promoting survivors’ rights and rights of people with disabilities;
5. Strengthening legal protection and frameworks for survivors and people with disabilities; and
6. Deepening and expanding survey process and enhancing data sharing.

 

Livelihoods Projects

Unemployment is a harsh reality for the vast majority of the people living in refugee camps. Survivors and people with disabilities are amongst the worst affected by the lack of livelihood opportunities.

AOAV’s victim assistance project will include micro-grants and capacity-building in order to assist victims and survivors to achieve economic independence, enhance social and economic inclusion, and improve their quality of life.

Micro-grant

In response to the assessment findings, AOAV is implementing a pilot micro-project grant programme to build capacity of local organisations and to assist organisations to work effectively to support survivors in the future.

Grants will be provided to start up income generating projects as well as non-income generating activities – such as funding to assist survivors to take advantage of training opportunities, to improve health and wellbeing, or to assist survivors’ groups to develop and implement advocacy initiatives.

Through the micro-project component, small-scale activities can be supported immediately, whilst larger scale projects are being developed as part of a longer-term victim assistance programme.

Capacity-building

A complementary initiative will be capacity-building support, to ensure that ASAVIM itself has the capacity:

– To respond effectively to the needs of survivors; and
– To create a network of organisations and structures committed to ensuring that survivors are represented in decision-making and are in a position to influence the type and way services and opportunities are available in the future.

 

To read more about AOAV’s livelihoods projects in Western Sahara, please download: Understanding and Addressing Needs of Victims and Survivors of ERW in Western Sahara, September 2012

 

Liberia: Agricultural and Vocational Training Programmes

Following 14 years of civil war which ended in 2003, and slow economic post-conflict recovery, a generation of war affected youth across Liberia has missed education, socialisation and training opportunities.This situation, combined with a post-conflict unemployment rate estimated to be 85%, means that disaffected youth are resorting to illegal resource extraction, theft and robbery to gain livelihoods and are socially estranged from local communities.

Furthermore, Liberia suffers residual levels of on-going criminal violence, interpersonal and sexual violence, and sporadic incidents of rioting; unemployed youth are vulnerable to recruitment into these violent activities.  Indeed, empirical evidence from AOAV, Small Arms Survey and the Liberian Armed Violence Observatory demonstrates that young males are the primary instigators of crime and violence in their communities. These violent incidents are dominated by opportunistic crime such as armed household robberies, tending to be driven by subsistence-related needs.

Liberia is a fertile nation, but the country’s agricultural potential has been highly neglected; existing agricultural training facilities have been destroyed during the war years and concessions suffer from a shortage of local skilled labourers. Consequently, much of the produce sold in Liberia is imported from other nations and sold at inflated prices. During a visit to a training centre in March 2008, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf stressed the importance and capacity of AOAV’s training centres in providing both sustainable livelihoods to participants and in assisting Liberia to obtain its agricultural objectives.

 

The Programme

AOAV established this innovative vocational training and rehabilitation programme model for these groups of ex-combatants and war affected youth who pose a potential threat to national and regional security.

Student at AOAV's training programme for vulnerable youth in Liberia

A trainee at AOAV’s Agricultural Training Facility in Bong County, Liberia

Following intensive research into the circumstances of these vulnerable youth, and considering Liberia’s strong market demand for locally-produced agriculture, AOAV established a model for residential agricultural training centres that offers youth legal vocational opportunities and life skills training to reintegrate economically and socially with their communities. An agriculture-focused training programme was selected in order to help meet the national livelihood and food security objectives of the Government of Liberia while also providing trainees with profitable and legal livelihood skills.  While the programme initially focused on supporting reintegration of disaffected ex-combatants, it has increasingly refocused to support youth who are vulnerable to engaging in violence.

The first of AOAV’s training sites, Tumutu, in Bong County, opened in 2007.  Tumutu was a functioning Ministry of Agriculture training centre which became disused and overgrown during the civil war.  AOAV refurbished existing buildings and constructed new facilities to create a professional, residential agricultural training centre capable of housing 400 students and over 40 training staff.  The second site is in remote Sinoe County in the southeast of Liberia, and has the capacity to house and train up to 225 participants.  More recently, AOAV took over management of further sites: Bensonville in Montserrado County Klay in Bomi County, and Ganta in Nimba County where it has implemented courses with up to 175 trainees per site.

Activities

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AOAV works with ex-combatants and war affected youth in Liberia by offering intensive vocational training and psychosocial counselling.

Trainees are identified and registered from areas of extreme vulnerability and are relocated to the residential training site for the duration of the course. Specialised psycho-social counseling, life skills training, small business management techniques, and vocational agricultural skills training are provided during the course.

Daily and weekly routines are backed by a strict attendance policy. Students must pass written and practical examinations to a training certificate issued jointly by AOAV and the Government of Liberia upon graduation. Following the training phase, graduates are reintegrated into the community of their choice with the assistance of AOAV field teams, who conduct a pre-settlement sensitisation visit to receiving communities.

Trainees are then assigned job placements with local concessions or given reintegration packs to establish their own agricultural enterprises, with follow-up support from AOAV to monitor graduates’ progress and ensure successful reintegration.

Results

To date, over 2,000 trainees have successfully graduated from the programme.  The agricultural training programmes underwent a rigorous two-year external evaluation, conducted by Yale University through Innovations for Poverty Action, in 2011.  The evaluation followed participants of both the Tumutu Agricultural Training Programme (TATP) and the Sinoe Agricultural Training Programme (SATP) over a two year period from registration, through training, and beyond reintegration, as well as a control group of peer individuals who did not undergo training.  The findings of this evaluation demonstrate the positive and sustainable impact of the programme on beneficiaries:

– Graduates have significantly higher interest in and positive attitudes toward farming, and are more likely to be engaged in agricultural activities
– Graduates spend a reduced number of hours on illegal livelihood activities
– Graduates experience a sizeable increase in average wealth, especially among durable household assets
– Graduates demonstrate improvements in social engagement
– Graduates demonstrate qualities of citizenship and stability
– Graduates had less interest in, and recruitment links to, Côte d’Ivoire violence in 2011

A full copy of the evaluation report can by found on the IPA website.