Towards resilient refugee settlements

Published on
June 19, 2020

One of the global challenges of our times is to create safe and sustainable refuge for all people. Wageningen University & Research and Outside Inc started a collaboration to build an alliance that aims to utilize the potential of existing and innovative circular solutions in refugee camps and migrant cities.

There are 70.8 million people around the world who have been forcibly displaced – the highest level of displacement since World War II. People in refugee camps and migrant cities face a wide range of challenges, such as income generation and employability, food security, healthy nutrition and sanitation. Around 70 percent of the refugee families live below the poverty line. Also waste treatment, water and soil quality, biodiversity loss, soil erosion and deforestation affect living conditions in refugee settlements and migrant cities. Some of these challenges have become even more pressing because of secondary effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Circular refugee camps

Together with SkillEd, African Clean Energy, SEMiLLA sanitation and Ghetto Smart, WUR and Outside Inc build an alliance to foster the development of circular refugee camps. The Netherlands have ample knowledge and technology to improve and sustain the living conditions in refugee camps and migrant cities (agro-food, modular/circular construction, drinking water facilities, sanitation, waste water treatment, reuse of materials, sustainable energy, health). The ambition is to build one or more programs together as input for local needs connected to integrated, inclusive, circular and scalable solutions for the improvement of living conditions. As such, it is expected that more impact can be generated for people living in refugee camps and migrant cities.


The focus region is East-Africa with pilot country Uganda. The goal is to make refugee settlements 50 percent more circular in 2025 through training, design of the camps and providing technologies and tools. We aim to run a selection of pilots for the design and implementation of circularity in refugee camps in Uganda and Kenya. Our initiative is in line with the policy of the Dutch government for instance through the PROSPECTS initiative, to create a better future for refugees.

In 2019 WUR ran an explorative project to better understand the needs and local challenges in Uganda, Kenya and Jordan. We validated the maturity of Dutch circular business solutions that could be implemented in refugee settlements. This project, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (project number KB-34-015-003), was initiated by NL Works and supported by RVO, WUR and WorldStartup. The results of the project have been collected in a report published by Bertram de Rooij and Marian Stuiver. After this project, the initial consortium evolved into the current alliance of public and private partners.

The alliance is composed of