Consultant – Rhino Camp Market System Assessment At Mercy Corps

Location: Rhino Camp, West Nile, Uganda


Mercy Corps is a leading global organization powered by the belief that a better world is possible. In disaster, in hardship, in more than 40 countries around the world, we partner to put bold solutions into action — helping people triumph over adversity and build stronger communities from within.

Rhino Camp settlement in Terego district is home to 120,108 refugees consisting of 30,337 households. The vast majority of these populations are women and children, 82% in Rhino Camp. 47% of refugee-settlement based households had insufficient food consumption in November 2020 (10% decrease than at the same time in 2019), according to the WFP VAM Food Security Analysis. This confirms the results of the IPC report in October 2020, which stated that 32% of people living in refugee settlements were facing high acute food insecurity levels (IPC level 3 and above – with Rhino Camp at 30%). Among key drivers of acute food insecurity is rising food prices in West Nile (alongside poor harvests and post harvest losses, heavy rainfall, loss of employment and livestock and human illnesses). WFP’s reduction in food rations to 60% (roughly 5 dollars per person per month currently) has meant a surge in negative coping practices, but also an increased need to purchase locally, produce food locally, and increase income in order to be able to sustain a healthy diet.

Currently, the average cost of the food Minimum Expenditure Basket (MEB) is 271,871 UGX – a 19% decrease from March 2020 at the height of the COVID restrictions. However, there are fluctuations based on different geographic areas, and Rhino Camp has one of the highest costs for the food MEB – with certain items seeing high inflation rates. For example, in November 2020 in Rhino Camp, the cost of 1kg of smoked fish had increased by 59%, leafy greens had increased by 48%, maize grain by 24%, with increases in the cost of firewood and charcoal as well. Currently, the MEB rate only covers 91% of the recommended food basket in this settlement – compared to 112% in other areas of West Nile. While WFP has initiated a switch to unconditional cash transfers instead of food distributions in Rhino Camp, which also should have the impact of stimulating the local market to respond and provide needed goods, the expansion of this was temporarily put on hold in 2020 due to a number of UCT recipients opting to return to food distributions due to the low value of the transfer compared to the goods. Uptake of unconditional cash instead of in-kind distributions in Rhino Camp is currently at 49%, compared to 100% in other settlements where this has been rolled out. WFP plans to expand cash uptake in 2021 in Rhino Camp, and will also be working on prioritization – to move away from a blanket approach to more targeted support in the near future. According to the WFP staff, low productivity, remoteness and bad roads particularly in the rainy season, scattered, low density population in some areas and the existence of few traders with limited access to capital are all contributing factors to food markets not developing organically, despite the introduction of cash. They also suspect poor information flow around the potential influx of cash to the settlement targeted at vendors.

According to the WFP/Reach Market Monitor from November 2020, 39% of traders in the West Nile region expressed concerns about running out of stock in the next week – with the top three challenges identified by vendors being the lack of cash to purchase more stock (67%), increased price of transportation (63%) and price fluctuation of commodities (52%). In West Nile, a large percentage of locally produced food such as simsim, groundnuts, cassava, sorghum and livestock are destined for the export market (majorly Congo and South Sudan) and most times as raw materials. While there are issues with land access, and access to good quality seeds and agricultural inputs, and access to extension services, there are also high price fluctuations for farmers who do manage to produce. During bumper harvests, commodity prices drop to the floor only to dramatically pick up a few months after the harvest season. Farmers and aggregators in the settlements do not have secure storage facilities to use to ensure they can sell at higher prices and ensure regular flow of produce over time to meet the needs of the local market.

WFP food rations such as maize, sorghum, rice, beans and cowpeas are regularly sold outside or within the settlement to increase household income, but there is little clear analysis of the systemic constraints that are limiting market development and driving high prices in this area despite potential cash influx from WFP, and potential small scale market support interventions which can be used to counter this.

Purpose / Project Description:

Mercy Corps has funding for a one-year market strengthening program targeting Rhino Camp and Bidi Bidi (‘Healthy Communities’) – focusing on small scale interventions to support increased agricultural productivity (via development of sustainable last mile services for access to agricultural inputs, services and training), strengthening food security for most vulnerable households (particularly those with children under five), and retail market strengthening for small vendors in the settlements selling food and basic household goods. As an initial step, we aim to carry out a market assessment to categorize the systemic constraints which are leading to high prices and uneven market development, and to suggest potential small scale, quick-win pilots which will address these. Mercy Corps aims to work closely with WFP on this project to provide market strengthening support to increase access to food and basic goods, increase uptake of unconditional cash in the settlement, and use learning from this to inform roll out of cash in other settlements such as Bidi Bidi in 2022.

Consultant Objectives:

Mercy Corps is looking for a consultant to provide a report on the drivers of high prices within the Rhino Camp settlements, prioritizing systemic constraints which are having an adverse impact market development and which can be addressed through small scale, quick-win interventions in the coming year – which can be implemented by MC Healthy Communities and WFPs Cash-Based Transfer program.

There are a number of existing market monitoring reports which can be used to inform the development of the final deliverable:

  • WFP VAM Food Security Analysis
  • IPC Food Security Report October 2020
  • WFP/Reach Market Monitor from November 2020 (and previous versions of this)
  • Market Access Analysis across all settlements (WFP, 2020)
  • From Value Chains to Market Systems (WENDA, 2021)
  • Market access in refugee areas including Rhino Camp (WFP, 2014 and 2017)
  • WFP comparative analysis of effectiveness of food assistance modalities across refugee settlements in Uganda (2016)
  • An Analysis of WFP’s cash and food interventions across select refugee settlements (2014)

Consultant Activities:

The Consultant will:

  • How are systemic constraints (lack of trader cash flow, expensive transport, fluctuating commodity prices) impacting the price and availability of nutritious food items in the settlement? Are there factors that make Rhino camp different from other nearby camps? Which systemic constraints are having the greatest impact on pricing and availability?
  • How would a switch to 100% cash transfers impact households and market opportunities for vendors?
  • What small-scale, quick-impact pilot interventions have high potential to address some of the systemic constraints which are impacting prices and availability of nutritious food in the settlements?
  • What larger scale interventions to address systemic constraints should be prioritized under future programs?


  • Carry out a desk review of all relevant assessments on market functioning in Rhino Camp
  • Submit a simple protocol for data collection, analysis and reporting for approval from Mercy Corps (using template provided)
  • Develop tools for data collection as per the protocol for approval from Mercy Corps
  • Carry out assessment
  • Provide a workshop on main findings and debrief
  • Submit draft report for approval from Mercy Corps
  • Submit final report responding to any comments from MC revision

Consultant Deliverables:

The Consultant will:

  • A simple protocol for data collection, analysis and reporting (following template provided and guidance in the MARKit toolkit)
  • Tools for data collection
  • Presentation / Summary Brief on Main Findings
  • Assessment Report

Timeframe / Schedule:

The assessment report should be completed by 30th April 2021

The Consultant will report to:

Project Manager for Healthy Communities

The Consultant will work closely with:

MC MEL Manager, West Nile MEL team, Food Security Consultant / Regional MSD Advisor

Required Experience & Skills:

  • Minimum 5 years of experience in relevant quantitative and qualitative field research in developing countries
  • Previous work experience on market system development and food security programs
  • Advanced academic qualification in Economics, International Development or other relevant degree
  • Demonstrated experience in carrying our systemic market assessments of high quality, familiarity with the MARKit toolkit is a plus
  • Experience managing mobile data collection using mobile apps e.g. Ona, Kobo etc.
  • Ability to analyze quantitative and qualitative data, evaluate data quality, manage large data sets, and present findings in clear and effective format
  • Familiarity with the Uganda agricultural context and market actors; Experience in northern Uganda and in refugee settlements preferred
  • Excellent analytical, research, writing and concise and compelling communication skills; Strong visual presentation skills preferred.
  • Language skills: Professional capacity in English

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September 2023