A fresh start for refugees through agriculture

07.02.2018 - Article

Kilmé Sina fled from the militant group Boko Haram and sought refuge in Chad. After spending years of uncertainty living in fear, the Cameroonian refugee and her family are now starting over with support of the GIZ.

Kilmé Sina fled from Cameroon to Chad
Kilmé Sina fled from Cameroon to Chad© GIZ

The images in Kilmé Sina’s mind are relentless. The 36-year-old provides a hesitant account of how she fled from Cameroon to Chad in 2014. At that time, terror group Boko Haram’s expansion into north-east Nigeria was well underway. Attacks in neighbouring Niger and Cameroon, where Sina sold household goods for a living, had also become more frequent. ‘One night, Boko Haram fighters came to our village. I didn’t see them, but I heard them.’

When terrorists began dragging the villagers out of their homes, the mother of four grabbed her children and ran. ‘I knew we were running for our lives.’ Under the cover of darkness, she headed towards Chad and at some point reached the bordering river. ‘I sat my children in a small boat and crossed the river. I’ve been here ever since.’

An aerial view of Chad
An aerial view of Chad© dpa / Nicolas Maeterlinck

Once in Chad, Sina had to start from scratch. ‘My father helped me at first, bringing us a bit of money and food,’ she remembers. When Sina learned that she could receive seeds as part of a project implemented by GIZ, she felt relieved. ‘That happened on June 29, 2017,’ she says with a self-conscious smile. She will never forget that day, when she became one of the 1,200 people to benefit from the support to date. Sina was born in Chad and has relatives there, but had lived in Cameroon for nearly 20 years before she was forced to flee.

Her friends, her network, her business – all in Cameroon, where she had been able to provide well for her family. In the border town of Mani, where she lives today, it is back to square one. ‘It is especially hard because I am divorced. I am responsible for everything, from putting food on the table to my children’s education. The project provided Sina with brief agricultural training. This was extremely important for her, as she had never before worked a field.

Okra harvesting helps Sina make a living
Okra harvesting helps Sina make a living© dpa / Koczera

Sina’s first harvest of corn, millet and okra is something to be proud of. She kept part of the harvest to feed her family and sold the rest. ‘With the money I earned, I was able to register the children for school, and buy books and notebooks. That is the most important thing for me.’ The fact that her children will attend school in Chad has reinforced Sina’s decision to start a new life there as a farmer. So far, 1,200 farmers have received GIZ support in establishing a new livelihood for themselves and their families.

On behalf of the European Union and the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ is supporting Sina and other refugees.


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