‘She told me that life here is so easy’: Urban migration of Acholi youth, Uganda

Elizabeth Stites, Teddy Atim and Ayee Flora Tracy

Type: Uganda, Working Paper

Organisation: Feinstein International Center (FIC, Tufts University)

Date: 04/03/2019

Full summary

This working paper presents findings on the migration of youth (aged 15–35) from Acholi, Uganda to the urban areas of Gulu and Pabbo in northern Uganda, and to the Acholi Quarter neighborhood in Kampala. The findings draw on qualitative data made up of semi-structured, open-ended individual interviews with both men and women in Gulu, Pabbo, Kampala, and two rural areas. In total, 112 qualitative interviews were carried out.


The findings of this report have important implications for national and international programming and interventions, especially given the expanding role urbanisation plays in Uganda and across the developing world. The provision of urban services, especially education, must meet the needs of the continuing influx of migrants, many of whom prioritize education. Decision making around migration involves not only concerns for the migrant, but also their family, whether or not family members also move.


Key findings


  1. Acholi youth migrate into urban areas for a diverse range of reasons; top among these are the lack of economic opportunities in rural areas, inadequate land access, and family disputes.
  2. Female migrants in particular also cited being pushed off land and physical and sexual abuse as reasons for migrating, in addition to economic pull factors.
  3. Many migrants maintain strong economic, livelihood, social and emotional ties to their rural places of origin, with split-household models being extremely common. Those who did not maintain such ties – mostly women – were among the most vulnerable.


The findings of this report are summarised in a four page briefing paper, which can be downloaded here.