Darfur: Displaced families returning home find help rebuilding their lives
26 Mar 2013
With humanitarian funding, an international NGO helps boost local agricultural and livestock production.
In the village of Btoata in western Darfur, Jamiya has found a sustainable way to store her family’s newly harvested crops after returning home from years of displacement. She uses a dabanga, which is a large storage vessel used to preserve food. In the nearby village of Shushta, Ashta has started using the milk from her recently expanded herd of goats to produce yogurt and cheese, diversifying her agricultural output and her family’s food supply.
“I welcome the goats I have received. Though my herd is still small, this allows me a bit extra to sell at market,” Ashta says.
Like Jamiya and Ashta, hundreds of people in this area of western Darfur have benefitted from a project run by international NGO Fellowship for African Relief Sudan (FAR), with funding from the OCHA-managed Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF). The project, which is called Supporting the Return Process in West Darfur through Livelihood Reconstruction, has helped families who have returned to Darfur after years of displacement, as well as their neighbours who stayed throughout the conflict. It aims to reestablish and strengthen livelihoods through sustainable agricultural practices, including access to improved storage systems, animal restocking and crop processing.
Many of the families in Darfur fled their homes in the last decade due to conflict. An estimated 1.4 million people are still displaced, but some families have returned to their villages; when they arrive, they typically have limited resources to rebuild their lives. Acres of farmlands and crops were destroyed during the years of conflict, further eroding communities’ access to food security and jobs.
“FAR is targeting areas that have seen many returns in the last three years,” said Mads Uhlin Hansen, a member of CHF’s Monitoring and Reporting team who visited the project in January. “Even though the returns have been gradual, they have put a lot of pressure on local communities that are already struggling to cope due to limited resources.”
The FAR project has not only provided communities with seeds and tools to plant crops, but has supported the construction of storage systems, allowing families to have more control over their surplus production. Dabangas used to be widespread in Darfur, but the technology has been largely lost. FAR is helping to revitalize this old and successful technology.
Restocking herds and training in animal husbandry have helped families to manage healthier herds and produce by-products such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Ashta has been able to increase her small herd of goats from three animals to five. FAR also operates a parallel programme that supports forestry regeneration and tree nurseries, to deal with the potential environmental consequences of larger herds.
FAR believes the project is important as Darfur looks to the future. “This project has further confirmed that early recovery and the returns process are viable, indeed critical, in Darfur,” said Reyn Lauer, Program Director of FAR Sudan.
“People want to return to their way of life in their home villages. We are helping families take control of their assets, make productive livelihood decisions and live in peace with one another.”
FAR works closely with community-based organizations in the villages to identify families who have returned and need help. It is also reaching out to nomadic host communities, who have not been displaced but still need support. Helping communities to strengthen food security and improving access to livelihood support are critical to building durable solutions for families in Darfur.
Reporting by OCHA Sudan