If you want to grow a dream, plant a seed.
Former combatants and young people at risk of being sucked into community violence in this small city in the Central African Republic (CAR) have few opportunities to start their lives anew. Violence and ethnic conflict have been endemic here for the past five years.
Now they’re part of this community’s first market gardening cooperative, through a project called “Reducing Community Violence.” The agro-pastoral centre is built on the bank of the Ouaka River in Bambari by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on three hectares of former cotton fields made available by CAR’s Ministry of Agriculture.
The project opens new avenues for socio-economic reintegration for 125 beneficiaries, some of whom formerly belonged to armed groups. Seventy of those participants are young people at risk of turning to violence or joining armed groups due to a lack of economic opportunity.
Participants are granted their own plot of land at 90 square metres. They pool available resources, including equipment, knowledge and infrastructure, including three tanks, two motor pumps and several market-gardening tools. The agro-pastoral centre is surrounded by new fences and includes storage and training buildings as well as an irrigation system.
The Central Agency for Agricultural Development (ACDA) in the Central African Republic forecasts that each five-month growing cycle could yield harvests sufficient to return some 1.5 million CFA, or about USD 3,000 per farmer.
“This initiative is a unique opportunity for these youth to rebuild their lives and have a brighter future. They are provided with tools, a job and most importantly with hope,” says Jean-François Aguilera, IOM Chief of Mission in CAR.
In partnership with ACDA, the beneficiaries of the project were equipped and trained in timing harvests to market demand. Their first crop: onion.
Since 2013, the Central African Republic has been wracked with instability due to enmity between two groups from the North East of the country: the Seleka, a Muslim-majority group, and the Anti-Balaka, a Christian and animist group.
What started as a political conflict later escalated into widespread violence along ethnic and religious lines. Rival groups now are fighting for control of territory, particularly in areas rich with mines.
According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix, the Central African Republic currently has more than 640,000 people internally displaced. The UN Refugee Agency reports that an additional 570,000 refugees seek protection in neighbouring countries. Across CAR nearly three million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.
The agro-pastoral centre was funded by the Peace Building Fund (PBF) and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in CAR (MINUSCA). The 18-month project is targeting 2,000 beneficiaries in the Bambari region as part of an IOM global programme to reduce community violence in the Central African Republic.Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).