Sudanese Families Returning Home After Years Get Help to Restart Their Lives

Action Against Hunger provides seeds, tools, and agricultural training to farmers starting over
Photo credit: © ACF-southern Sudan, T. Frank

When Ahok Dut Deng was 20 years old, she, like many other southern Sudanese living in the Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, was forced to flee to the north. Straddling northern and southern Sudan, Northern Bahr el Ghazal state suffered considerable violence during the 20 year civil war that displaced four million people.

“There were many reasons to leave,” says Ahok. “The hunger was severe, there was no food, and planes were bombing the area, so there was nowhere safe to stay.”

Life in the north was difficult. For 16 years Ahok survived by doing casual labor, earning just enough to buy food and clothes. Once the war between the north and the south officially ended in 2005, Ahok and her family of eight joined the numbers of hopeful southerners returning to their homes. But life wasn’t going to get easier just yet.

“We came back with nothing, and to nothing. Because we traveled by bus, all we could bring from the north were the bare essentials and a graining mill, which we had to sell in order to build a home. We had no cows, no goats. I tried to grow some food, but it was too difficult to get seeds and tools. All the people returning home had the same problems.”

To address these problems Action Against Hunger has implemented a number of projects in Warrap and Northern Bar el Ghazal states, with the aim of improving agricultural techniques and increasing the food security of families starting their lives anew.

At demonstration sites set up by Action Against Hunger, farmers learn new techniques to increase their crop yields. Half of each the demonstration site is cultivated using the community’s traditional methods while the other half showcases the new approach. Because her family needed support, ACF chose Ahok to participate in a demonstration site in the village of Maperduthou, where she received seeds, tools and training. Many families run out of food during periods of drought, so they consume their seeds rather than saving them to plant at a later date.

To address this problem, ACF distributes three-month food rations—known as protection rations—to the most vulnerable families to ensure enough seeds are left over for next year.

“Because of the extra food we received, and because the harvest was much better this year, I have been able to save enough seeds,” Ahok says proudly. “So next year, other people can take my place in the project and more people can be helped.

“My tools are still in good condition, so everything I have learned here, I can now do at home in my own garden. It’s the first time that I’ve planted seeds in a row, spacing them properly, and it’s much better. I can cover a much bigger area, weeding is easier, and I get more food with fewer seeds. Even my neighbors have started to copy the technique because they can see how good it is.”