Promoting Life Skills and Livelihoods (S4L)

Skills for Life aims to strengthen the income-generating capabilities of unemployed youth between 18 and 25 years by enhancing their access to technical skills training, financial, life and literacy skills for improved livelihoods. The project targets both members of the host and refugee communities living in Kakuma Refugee Camp and Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement located in Turkana County, the North-Western region of Kenya. Skills for Life envisions increased youth self-reliance and sustainable contributions to conflict and human rights transformations. This is achieved through better access to employment opportunities, increased income generation and improved livelihood prospects which leads to socio-economic integration of both the refugees and the host community. 
Kakuma, Kenya
Lokichogio, Kenya
Project duration
2016 - 2022
Financed by
  • Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC

The project

Turkana County, the second-largest county in Kenya, has an estimated population of 926,976 with young people below the age of 19 years accounting for 60% of the host population. Classified as the most impoverished county, 79% of its inhabitants live in poverty with illiteracy levels at a high of 82% (Kenya Population Census, 2019).

Turkana West sub-county is home to Kakuma Refugee Camp, which hosts approximately 186,000 refugees from 21 nationalities (KISEDP Report, 2019). The camp was established in 1992 and has since grown and surpassed its capacity leading to the formation of Kalobeyei Integrated Settlement, located 20 km from Kakuma town. Turkana county shares a porous border with Uganda, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, which increases susceptibility to cases of insecurity and illegal migration. The residents mainly comprise of nomadic pastoralists who have limited access to basic education due to recurring conflicts and other socio-economic constraints.

Turkana's economy is mainly dependent on livestock. The county faces various challenges brought by recurrent drought, the rapid growth of the local population, the continued influx of refugees and over-dependence on humanitarian support. These have exacerbated the vulnerability of the livelihood systems and weakened the local economy. Presently, the county is seeking to achieve its potential by exploring other income-generating activities and developmental growth areas. It is against this background that the Skills for Life Project operates to help the youth explore diverse opportunities for improved livelihoods and achieve a sustainable development pathway.


Project Goals

Skills for Life aims to promote the socio-economic integration of refugees and the host community living in Kakuma and Kalobeyei through enhanced self-employment, job creation and income generation opportunities. S4L targets unemployed youth between 18 and 25 years, where 2,031 graduates (50% refugee and 50% female) will access skills training thereby improving their income-generating capabilities and livelihoods.

The Skills for Life (S4L) project seeks to catalyse systemic change in skills development and employment creation. It facilitates flexible, low-cost, market-oriented, and competency-based skills training, which serve to create pathways to decent self/wage employment for the youth. 

In the third phase, the project aims to achieve the following:

  • Increased access to vocational, life, business, financial and when required, basic literacy and numeracy skills among the refugees and the host community.
  • Enhanced resilience and livelihood coping solutions through income generation from business groups, self or wage employment, and increased access to financial services.
  • Develop a replicable and scalable skills development model for fragile environments.

Swisscontact provides short-term technical and financial support to deliver multiple project interventions and uses the Learning Group (LG) model to offer non-formal technical skills training. 

The Skills for Life project is executed within three main components:

  • The technical skills component offers training in different sectors within the labour market. These include carpentry, masonry, welding, catering, motorcycle repair, computer and phone repair, hairdressing, bakery, electrical wiring, plumbing, tailoring, barbery, poultry management, screen printing, beadwork, weaving, and soap making.
  • The social skills component spearheads training focused on life skills, sexual and reproductive health, sexual and gender-based violence prevention, sports for development, work readiness and literacy and numeracy sessions.
  • The business support component delivers training on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, group savings and lending and business support through coaching and mentorship.

Project partners

Skills for Life is implemented in partnership with various stakeholders like local community-based organisations, private sector businesses, non-governmental organisations, and government agencies. 

  • United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
  • Turkana County Government
  • Ministry of Education, Sports and Social Protection - Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET Directorate)
  • Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ)
  • African Entrepreneur Collective (AEC)
  • Faulu Productions
  • Oropoi Pastoralists Poverty Eradication Initiative (OPPEI)
  • Seeds of Peace Africa (SOPA)
  • Turkana Christian Development Mission (TCDM)


Results until 2019

  • 3,141 youths (1,916 female) from the refugee and host community accessed technical skills training in various trades.
  • 2,569 youths (1,621 female) from 122 learning groups successfully completed the training.
  • 1,227 beneficiaries (822 female) were engaged in wage (190) and self-employment (1,037) as a result of the training.
  • 122 mavuno groups comprising 1,581 members (253 refugees and 1,281 female) were formed and members saved CHF 303,854, loaning out CHF 645,567 to each other.
  • 126 business groups were formed and generated income worth CHF 65,586 from active groups as additional income.
Project Journey and Key Achievements
The Promoting Life Skills and Livelihoods project commonly referred to as Skills for Life (S4L) was designed to strengthen the income-generating capabilities of youth (both refugee and from the host community) in Kakuma by enhancing their technical, financial, life and literacy skills to improve their chances of an enriched livelihood.


Initial vocational education and training
Refugees access the global market
The novel coronavirus pandemic underscored the importance of enhancing collaborations and effective partnerships among all sectors and stakeholders. The development world was not left behind in its efforts to implement sustainable projects under the ‘new normal’. Despite having different mandates, several organisations have collaborated to ensure their beneficiaries continuously improve their livelihoods and achieve some form of independence despite the uncertain challenging times.
Initial vocational education and training
Lucy sews her way to independence
Lucy Amanikor grew up in Kakuma. She quit school early. Her parents could not pay the school fees, so she sold baked goods on the streets of Kakuma. One day she heard about the Skills for Life project. She received coaching and professional guidance, and after some time she decided to become a seamstress. She completed training from November 2016 to April 2017. She was optimistic and believed in herself. “I knew that if I give my best I will be successful. I love everything about tailoring. It gives me secure income and I always have enough work. I sew both women’s and men’s clothing, and I also make repairs.”
Initial vocational education and training
Cakes and scones for a better life
Kamal fled Sudan for Kenya in 2016 due to political unrest. Since then, the 32-year-old has been living in the Kakuma refugee camp. He learned about the Skills for Life project through a sensitisation campaign and settled on baking as his trade of choice since he wanted to have a marketable skill when he returned to his homeland. In South Sudan, there aren’t many bakeries nor a wide variety to select from. Sudanese bread is the most common. The Skills for Life project trained Kamal and 12 other group members for three months. They learnt how to bake a wide range of products, including different types of cakes, tea scones, and Congolese mandazi (fried bread).