The dust swirls around our vehicle as the UNAMID truck in front of us comes to a stop. The lead convoy vehicle has gone ahead to investigate a pick-up in the dirt track ahead. After a few minutes we are cleared to continue, the dust kicks up again and we move on down the path.
We are traveling to the village of Terbiba in West Darfur – a place where, after a decade of conflict, some refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have begun to return. The fragile stability here provides an opportunity for families to reestablish themselves and for children to resume a normal childhood. For returnees, recovering the livelihood opportunities they once had can be a daunting undertaking, but it is a vital part of the early recovery process. In Terbiba, we are visiting the graduation ceremony for 100 women and youth who have just completed War Child’s vocational training. The trainings, focused on food preparation, sewing and masonry, have provided the necessary skills to help the participants increase their income and provide for their families. Community leaders, friends and family members have all come to join in the event. After the singing, dancing and speeches, the beneficiaries receive start-up kits containing the necessary tools and equipment to put their newly acquired skills into practice.
It is “winter” in Sudan, which means that temperatures are relatively cool (daily highs have dropped to a mere 35 degrees Celsius in Geneina, West Darfur) and the skies are cloudless. It’s dry and dusty, and the rivers that crisscross Darfur no longer flow. For many, accessing water and maintaining food security are increasingly challenging – two issues that can fuel local conflicts. This is not normally the time for growing food, but War Child has developed and equipped small-scale, irrigated farms that allow women returning from the IDP camps and those living within host communities to engage in vegetable farming during the winter season. At one of these farms on the outskirts of Geneina, approximately fifty participants are spread out across the field clearing and tilling the land. In the following days, they will begin training on farming and irrigation practices in preparation for planting. It’s difficult work, but a rare opportunity at this time of year to increase access to food and generate an income while promoting stability within the community.
The situation in Darfur remains fragile, but by enabling returning families to support themselves, War Child is helping to give communities – and the children within them – the best chance of securing lasting stability.