Upon safe arrival in Arua and a joyful welcome at the office. Our party, consisting of myself, Eric the driver, Mama Yunia Yango agriculture project coordinator, Canon Charles discipleship trainer and Alex the office manager travelled to Imvepi camp one and a half hours East of Arua.
Imvepi is a part of one of the largest contiguous refugee camps in the world consisting of about 200,000 refugees. During the day we saw two trucks full of new refugees arriving and being transported to the camp for initial registration. With the troubles in South Sudan continuing, amidst horrific rumours, people are still fleeing from there to the safe haven of neighbouring Uganda.
The first women’s vegetable group we visited are all members of a church in their camp area called ‘Luketa’ meaning ‘save us’. The group here itself has chosen the name ‘Yenet’ meaning ‘hope’.
In the image above is Yango with group leader Joyce Poni. Joyce was voted as leader by all the group members and she gave an excellent and confident speech. She arrived in Imvepi camp just over a year ago and our conversation began about food distribution. Food was being distributed in the camp that day. Some of the group had already left and the others were anxious not to miss their ration so our visit with them was all too brief.
The monthly food distribution, consisting of sorghum grain and beans, is insufficient for Joyce to feed her family so she has devised various other strategies to supplement her food and income. On the plot of land given to her in the camp, about a quarter of an acre, she tries to grow a few beans but this is insufficient to fill her shortfall. She also rents a plot of land just outside the camp with her scarce resources from a local landowner. On this land, she tries to grow some maize and peanuts.
Renting land though is a high-risk strategy as she explained to us. Her landlord she says is kind and fair but other people simply come and use her plot to grow other crops. As a refugee she feels that she does not have the power to enforce her usufruct rights. She tells also of other landlords who just rent the same plot to more than one refugee family. Again what she does manage to grow is insufficient and she felt discouraged with this strategy,
The vegetable group she now leads through her church and with funding from CRESS has given her confidence, a sense of place and hope in her future. The vegetable seedlings now growing in the group nursery create excitement and anticipation for all group members. They feel they have the knowledge now to help their families, vary their diet, improve their nutrition and also have a potential source of some income. Joyce says the training and seeds she received from CRESS have made her very happy.
Throughout the day visiting other groups the sense of much-needed community this CRESS vegetable project has already created was constantly being praised and our prayers with every group we met strengthened this.
Written by Olivia Jones