Supporting Returnees in Darfur

Supporting Returnees in Darfur


Zainab Ibrahim Abdulla is one of approximately 200,000 internally displaced Darfuris who’ve returned to their homes since early 2011. For the past 2 years she’s eked out a new start in the village of Nyoro, in West Darfur, Sudan. “We came here because where we were staying we had no income, we just collected wood to make charcoal, that’s all,” she says.

Zainab fled her home in 2006, at the age of 20, and spent the intervening years living as an internally displaced person in Misterei, a large village south of West Darfur’s capital Geneina. In Misterei she got married and had four children but life was tough. They had no land to cultivate and lived off food aid. She says her family chose to come to Nyoro because they’d heard it was relatively safe and they wanted to start farming again.

Now, with the help of FAO and national implementing partner Sudanese Peace Humanitarian Organization, Zainab is growing her own vegetables and groundnuts. The project was funded by the Common Humanitarian Fund. “Here, life is better,” she says. The homes in Nyoro are mostly prefabricated, steel-framed rectangular houses with a pitched, grass roof instead of the more traditional round huts. They were delivered as part of the humanitarian community’s support to the returnee process. A market has been established and FAO has helped build a livelihoods centre where villagers can make cheese and process groundnuts.

Working Together

One of Zainab’s neighbours Fatima Barra Ibrahim came back to Nyoro two years ago with her five children. She’s growing okra and other vegetables in a plot of land that’s shared by both Arab and non-Arab women. “If we have shelter but no food we won’t survive here. We’re farming together now and there’s no distrust. I’m not afraid,” she says.

Less Reliant on Aid

FAO through the SPHO has provided the returnees with the equipment they need to grow their own food including locally-adapted seeds, hand tools, treadle pumps for irrigation, donkeys and donkey ploughs. As well, returnees have been trained to make and use fuel-efficient stoves that require less coal, and to make cheese and groundnut oil and paste.

Across Darfur, the number of people returning to their villages is only a fraction of the 1.7 million IDPs registered in camps. Ongoing insecurity means returning is often too risky. Re-establishing land tenure and finding livelihoods opportunities are also significant obstacles. This year, FAO’s activities in Darfur seek to redress some of these issues. Under the Consolidated Appeals Process, FAO is seeking $US 18 million to help more than 2 million vulnerable people in Darfur including returnees like Zainab and Fatima, IDPs and host communities improve their food security and become less reliant on outside aid.