The Kalobeyei Model: Towards Self-Reliance for Refugees?


The report outlines a conceptual model and indicators for measuring refugee self-reliance and applies it to the Kalobeyei settlement and Kakuma refugee camps context.

The Kalobeyei Model: Towards Self-Reliance for Refugees?

The Kalobeyei settlement was opened in Turkana County in Kenya in 2016 with the intention of promoting the self-reliance of refugees and the host population and delivering integrated services to both. Its development is now 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. KISEDP envisions a range of innovative, market-based approaches to refugee protection that diverge from the conventional aid model implemented in Kakuma. These include cash-based programmes to meet housing, nutritional and other material needs, training to capitalise on the skills and entrepreneurial potential of refugees and hosts, and agricultural projects to promote dryland farming and household ‘kitchen gardens’.

This report is based upon 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 refugee 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 with Kalobeyei. The report covers two waves of data collection with the same randomly sampled respondent population, carried out in 2017 and 2018.

Our 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 the policies and practices of relevant international organisations (IOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in Kalobeyei on specific KISEDP goals, including the creation of a ‘hybrid’ community of refugees and the local host population, the formation of new markets, and the promotion of self-reliance.

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 health remains limited, and most refugees report being completely or mostly dependent on food. Interestingly, though, 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.

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.  We argues that the findings have sobering implications for the very concept of ‘self-reliance’; the possibility for self-reliance in Kalobeyei and Kakuma will have to come from the large-scale macro-economic development of the wider Sub-County of Turkana West.