Growing produce is a tradition for the Masalit tribe in Darfur, Sudan. For generations they relied on the land for their livelihood. But then the brutality of war came and these peaceful people were forced to flee their land, ending up in one of the many cramped displacement camps, miles from home.
This is what happened to Hawa and her family. With her husband and four children she lives in the Amduwein camp, just south of the town of Krenik. Her husband has a modest laundry shop in town and it brings in a small income. They were just about getting by until 2010, when Hawa had twins. Suddenly the family income was not enough.
“Life became very difficult for us.” She said, “I couldn’t feed the children and we had no money to survive.”
Hawa made a decision. She had no skills for work in town, so she had to return to the land. The only safe and available place to farm was a small, quarter hectare plot in the Durta valley, an hour walk away from the camp. At the time it was all she could afford to rent.
Obviously, there are no garden centres in Darfur, and Hawa needed both seeds and tools to work the plot. And while she knew how to grow crops, she didn’t have the business skills to maximize her profits.
Fortunately, War Child could help. We were able to provide seeds, along with tools such as a hand pump to help irrigate the soil. At the same time, War Child’s partner, the Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund, offered in-kind support and technical advice to help her establish a small farming business.
Hawa’s life has been transformed. The business has been a success and midway through the season she could afford to extend her plot and reinvest some profits into a new crop – onions – that extended the growing season. The rest of the profits support her children. “The vegetables I sell help me afford milk for the children, food, clothes, medicine and small household items, like soap.”
Hawa has big plans for the future. She wants to find a larger plot where she can grow millet to increase her income. She has also signed up to War Child’s training program, where she shares her experience with other female farmers and is given access to tools – like a motorized pump – that will help her to grow the business.
Hawa is an inspiration to all gardeners, whatever the size of their plot. When you restock your garden this spring, consider leaving a couple of plants at the garden centre and donating the money you save to War Child. By giving your other vegetables space to grow you could be planting a seed of hope on another continent.