The Sahrawi refugee situation is one of the most protracted and difficult refugee situations in the world. Over 100,000 refugees from Western Sahara have been living in remote camps located in the Sahara Desert in southwest Algeria since 1975. Because of harsh environmental conditions, the remote location of the camps, and the pending unknown political solution, the refugee population remains extremely vulnerable and entirely dependent on international assistance for their basic needs and survival. Due to the protracted situation of Sahrawi refugees and emergence of other large-scale humanitarian emergencies, funding levels have greatly decreased in recent years but humanitarian needs remain as pressing as ever. The scarcity of fresh and diverse food, limited access to water, and extreme environmental conditions have a direct impact on the population’s health and well- being. Opportunities to engage in livelihood and economic activities are extremely limited, hampering refugees’ capacities to improve their socio-economic situation. The Sahrawi refugees – especially the young – are desperate to take control of their own lives. The majority we have spoken to are openly questioning whether their cause would not make more progress if they took up arms once again.
In spite of all of these challenges, the Sahrawi people are amazingly resilient and innovative, and depend on strong community bonds to survive. Informal local economies within the camps provide for many of the needs not provided by humanitarian assistance. Our proposed project will leverage the passion and skills of the youth through an innovative business incubator that combines environmental regeneration and holistic business integration to combat food sovereignty and economic independence while building capacity of the youth towards a sustainable future.