ARUA. Anjelina Abuyu, 10, is a Primary 2 (P2) pupil and a resident of Omugo 4 village in Rhino Camp refugee settlement, Omugo sub-county in Arua district.
Born to Mr Peter Ayan and Ms Agnes Asina both South Sudanese refugees, Abuyu always ensures that their family vegetable kitchen garden is green.
Every time Abuyu comes back from school, she is joined by her 2-year-old younger brother in watering their 10 square metre garden of tomatoes, cabbages and onions.
They carry out this task every day regardless of the presence of their parents. To Abuyu, from the time they came to the camp in 2016, they have been mainly relying on the beans, cooking oil and posho her parents receive from the World Food Program (WFP).
“I’m tired of eating beans every time and I believe by continuing to look after these crops, we shall have diet at our home,” Abuyu said while watering the crops on Wednesday.
Her family is among the many targeted in the nutrition and income generation intervention (NIGI) project in Rhino camp refugee settlement in Arua district.
The project funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands was launched in February 2019 and will be implemented for a period of two years. It targets 5000 refugees.
NIGI project is a consortium involving different partners in implementation which includes Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI), Wageningen Plant Research (WPR) and East-West Seed – Knowledge Transfer Foundation (EWS-KT Foundation).
The project seeks to build the capacity of refugees and host communities in and around the West Nile region in the areas of vegetable production in order to improve household dietary diversity and incomes.
Ms Grace Akandru, 22, a mother of two in Omugo 4 village said on monthly basis, she receives two basins of maize grain, half a basin of beans and 2.5litres of cooking oil from WFP for her family.
But she says the food ration is not enough to be sustained for the whole month, a reason she has embraced vegetable growing.
“I feel very happy planting onions, tomatoes, cabbages and watermelon because I know, these crops will supplement what I get from the WFP. I intend to eat part of the crops and sell others to make money to support my family,” Akandru said.
Mr Alex Muto, another refugee in Omugo 5 village noted that growing of vegetables has been part of their culture in South Sudan only that they were limited by the knowledge of how to use the small pieces of land allocated to them in the camp for that purpose.
“I want to thank East-West Seed foundation for teaching us on how we can make maximum use of these small pieces of land we have for growing vegetable. Now I can enjoy raising tomatoes, onions, eggplants and cabbages on this 15 x 10-metre piece of land of mine and I’m sure, this will make me forget of the trauma back at home in South Sudan,” said Muto.
Muto now intends to ask for more land from the host community members to expand his activities.
According to Ms Annet Kiiza, the EWS – KT Country Director, they have trained farmers and set several kitchen gardens with a minimum of four different highly nutritious vegetable crops which create dietary diversity at household levels.
“We always conduct a minimum of five pieces of training about seedling production, fertilization, soil and water management, crop production and safe use of pesticides and conduct one farmers field day on each demonstration garden set both in the settlement and in the host communities where a minimum of 25 farmers always attend,” Annet explained.
She observed that their main intervention is horticulture, vegetables and fruits, in particular, adding that the intervention also considers bio-fortified crops such as iron-rich beans and orange flesh sweet potatoes.
“This will address anaemia and vitamin A deficiency which are common problems amongst both refugees and host population in the refugee settlement area,” she said.
Mr Nicholas Tayebo, the Assistant Settlement Commandant of Rhino Camp based in Omugo said as the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), their policy is to ensure that with time, refugees should be in position to sustain themselves, a reason he believes that the step taken to involve them in cultivation is the best way to go.
“WFP gives these refugees cereals and beans but EAST West Seed and NIGI have come in to ensure that the refugees also have a balanced diet by growing vegetables and have some for sale to cater for other needs which is good for us,” Tayebo stressed.
The intervention also supports capacity building for local seed businesses as well as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) who are engaged in seed distribution to produce high quality, right variety and climate-smart seeds for staple or cash crop production to facilitate increased staple crop production in the refugee settlement areas.