Activity report from January to June 2018 (3)

– Support to cultivate vegetables in the Mangaten Camp 1 (Part 1) –

[Original by Takaki IMAI, President (October 5, 2018); Translated by K. Adachi/S. Altman]

Making a list of family-owned home vegetable gardens

When we visited the Mangaten Camp 1 in March, Peter, the camp leader spoke to us with a serious face, “We are in trouble because of the extreme shortage of water, food, and medicine”. The organization which had supported the water supply and medicine so far has finished its activity and withdrawn.

Additionally, we heard that people had been displaced from home because of the battle that occurred in the northern part of the country from December through January. They were loaded onto trucks and arrived at a camp where they started their evacuee life. An NGO appears to have carried out an investigation but there has been no specific support so far.

That’s why Peter asked us “Can you please give us support for water supply and food?”. However, we were not planning that sort of support and did not have the budget at that time. We told him this frankly and explained that we would offer support for agricultural and irrigation tools for making home vegetable gardens. This is based on our discussion with women when we visited the previous time last November. We thought he would be very disappointed, but he had a positive response and accepted it unexpectedly. He was like, “Right. That’s good because we can produce food by ourselves if we cultivate the fields”.

Peter followed-up by saying “Then, how many people are you planning to support? If we could know the number of people, we could make a list of participants for the activity”.

“No no, it’s not necessary. The number of people hasn’t been determined. We will individually confirm and support those who have already started vegetable home gardens, even if only a little, and those who have the intention to start vegetable home gardens from now on and have space around their own tents.”

JVC staff filling the list in.

“How will you individually confirm this?”
“We will go around the inside of the entire camp”.

We requested Peter to call several women who have a role similar to a caretaker inside the camp. We started to walk from the western side of the camp with him and the women.

People came out from the tent one after another when they saw us.

“Who’s cultivating this vegetable garden?”

A woman who is one of the caretakers pointed to the place on the back side of a tent made with a blue plastic sheet. The soil is exposed now from the dry season.

“That’s my place. I made peanuts last year.”

We asked for her name and filled the list in. Then a woman that was looking on at the side holding a baby said, “Since no one cultivates the spot next to that spot, I’m thinking I’ll cultivate here this year”. When we asked her more, she said that she didn’t have a home vegetable garden because she gave a birth last year, but she wants to grow ladies fingers and Jew’s mallow this year.”

Then the names of women were being filled in one after another.

Women standing in their own vegetable garden.

Walking like this made us realize that home vegetable gardens were being made everywhere such as among tents and vacant lands next to fences, regardless the place inside the camp. Nevertheless, this season is the dry season when it does not rain in Juba. Home vegetable gardens depend on rainwater so there are currently no vegetables. The stems of ladies fingers and eggplants remain in the field but the field of peanuts was desolate.

We walked around every inch of the camp in about 2 hours and the names filled in the list totaled 89 people. Most of them are women but there are men among them. About 80 percent are those who have already owned home vegetable gardens in the past and roughly 20 percent are those who are newly starting.

There are more than 100 tents in this Camp 1 and the number continues to increase. It’s difficult to grasp the population because there are people going in and out between other camps, but several hundreds of people are living here. Having 89 people making vegetable gardens means that someone in most of the camps families are probably cultivating in the small space surrounding their tents.

What to support?

After we went around in the camp, we had a discussion with Peter and the women. At first, when we asked about the agricultural tools, the following voices raised:

“Since we don’t have anything, last year we borrowed hoes from other people and cultivated the field. If we have our own hoes, we can cultivate more.”
“It’s hard to collect withered leaves and weeds without a hoe to clear up the field.”

As scheduled, we decided to support three kinds of agricultural tools (hoe, shovel, rake).

Regarding irrigation tools, support for watering cans has been decided according to the opinion, “Watering cans enable us to save water in order to sprinkle water when it does not rain”. Support for a plastic tank used to draw water doesn’t appear necessary because everyone has access to one. Moreover, when discussing the opinion, “In order to carry water or crops with plastic tanks, we need a wheel barrow”, the opinion was divided.

Women in the camp help unloading farm tools from a truck.

When I inquired, “As the price for a wheelbarrow is expensive, we cannot offer such support for everyone. We would like several people to share one unit and use it in turns”, the women reacted, “That makes us scramble for it”, and, “You don’t need to offer support if 1 person cannot consistently use 1 unit.”

This was an unexpected reaction. We didn’t think they would say that they don’t need the support.

Although Peter tried to persuade them by saying “No way, you don’t have to say such a thing; why don’t you share it among several people”, the opinion of the women didn’t change.

Peter made a hard effort to convince them and the topic was settled in that we support 10 units for them to communally use. Although there was this aspect, we could not understand why their resistance was so strong against “common use”, the real reason will be figured out later.

The next day, we purchased a set of agricultural tools as a sample and showed women in the camp for confirmation.

“This is it. This enables us to cultivate more and more.”

I was amazed by the elderly woman who took the sample in her hand gave a glad shout and started to dance while swinging a hoe.

There were 89 people on the list for home vegetable gardens, but we acquired extra sets of tools. We procured 100 sets of agricultural tools and watering cans, and 10 units of wheelbarrows in the city of Juba, in consideration of people who might say, “Although we are making home vegetable gardens, our names are not on the list”. We put the materials on trucks and transported them to the camp. When trucks arrived, the women gathered and started unloading. Everyone was singing a song before we knew it. When they work together, they naturally sing together as well.

We will report on the distribution of agricultural tools next time.

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