Dozens of rows of meticulously spaced out onions are sprouting out of the ground in Nyangun’s garden. They’re competing for sunlight beside a tree that’s groaning under the weight of dozens of plump papayas ready to be picked.
The garden didn’t exist a year ago. It’s the result of a World Food Programme (WFP) livelihood activity funded by the Danish Embassy and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) which is providing a bumper crop of benefits. Single mother of nine Nyagun was approached by WFP’s local partner Concern Worldwide and asked to participate in the home gardening activity. She was given basic gardening tools and seeds in exchange for attending practical and theoretical agriculture classes. The rest was up to her.
WFP is expanding the scope of these livelihood activities in Ethiopia, each designed to help vulnerable households help themselves, enhancing their resilience to climate shocks, promoting self-reliance and gradually reducing the cost of WFP’s humanitarian response over time. Around 35,000 refugee households in eight camps throughout Gambella region, in western Ethiopia, have access to these activities.
Clasping her three-fingered cornflower blue rake/hoe, Nyagun welcomed us into her garden, and it’s inspiring. It’s packed with bananas, Ethiopian cabbage, mangoes, okra, onions and papaya. They’re all allocated a specific zone in her 15 square metre patch of land. She assures us that it will look even better in a few months once the rains arrive.
50,000 South Sudanese refugees live in Pugnido town’s two camps. Many like Nyangun have been there for 20 years, and with limited opportunities to work, the majority rely on WFP’s regular food assistance for sustenance.
Participants in the home gardening project are encouraged to enhance their agricultural skills, allowing them to grow nutritious produce on their family’s allocated land within the camps. That produce can be used to supplement their regular WFP food assistance, and any surplus can be sold in the camps’ markets.
“I used to go to the market to buy food, but now I go to sell food,” explained Nyangun. She’s earning around 250 Ethiopian Birr (about US$ 8) each week from her crops now. She taught herself how to market her papayas and onions, and now they’re her best sellers. She sold enough over the past few months that she could save enough cash to buy a bicycle which makes her market commute easier.
After transforming her land into a lifeline, she’s become a passionate advocate for gardening. She’s learned how to make the most of what was once just bare land and is supplementing the family’s daily meals with nutritious fruits and vegetables.
“If you sit around all day, you won’t eat. It’s that simple,” she made clear.
The garden is a sanctuary for Nyangun, a carefully ordered construct where she’s in control.
“Look at the rows,” she insisted. “Onions grow better if there’s order. If you throw the seeds randomly, then each onion has to compete to survive.”
WFP’s tailored livelihood activities take into account communities’ conditions, abilities and needs. With basic courses and the provision of tools, families like Nyangun’s are able to reap a nutritious future.