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In war-torn Darfur, it is hard to make a living—and stay safe—in the countryside, but Oxfam partners are helping villagers rebuild their lives.
There is no road sign to guide you to the Sudanese village of Gemmeiza Arbaa, but if you keep a sharp eye out, you can find a sandy track that’ll take you there. It winds through what was once a forest and is now open land dotted with bushes and small trees. In the dry season, everything here is gray-brown and dusty. And thorny. Every wild plant is bristling with thorns.
When you cross a wadi, or seasonal river, you begin to see signs of the settlement—someone drawing water for animals from a hand-dug well in the middle of the dry riverbed, donkeys resting under a baobab tree, and a little herd of goats browsing and drifting toward home.
Gemmeiza Arbaa is a farming village that was destroyed in the Darfur conflict in 2005. Survivors fled to a camp for displaced people about 19 miles away in the town of Nyala. Many years later, some began returning to the village just long enough to plant and harvest crops, but now about 1,000 families have decided to put down roots again here.
They rebuilt their huts and compounds out of millet stalks, but that was only the beginning. They needed healthy crops and animals, and enough water for them all. They needed sources of income to supplement their harvests, and information about hygiene and nutrition to keep their families healthy. Rural life in Darfur is full of danger: village communities face threats from hostile groups that roam the countryside; medical and veterinary care is hard to access—and pay for; the unpredictable weather brought on by climate change can devastate the crops they depend on; and the sands drifting in from the desert—if not halted quickly—could make this land uninhabitable before long. So along with the basics, the Gemmeiza Arbaa community needed a concerted effort to reduce the risks.
Oxfam and our partners in Darfur have joined forces with Gemmeiza Arbaa and 49 other struggling villages with a multi-faceted resilience program aimed at helping communities tackle the host of challenges they face as they try to get back on their feet.
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