We always ask the people we meet what they miss about Darfur. The refugees have given a diversity of answers that paint a beautiful picture of a calm and peaceful life of agrarians and villagers. They speak about their fields, the herds that the boys watched over during the day, and the marketplace where they traded what they grew. Many remember growing Millet or corn, tomatoes, okra, and watermelon.
This year Darfuris are able to grow a bit of these things outside the refugee camp. We have attempted to visit our friends Achta and Adef several times, but both are away at gardens. Achta leaves each morning to work a field that is close to the camp, taking Gabril, Guisma, and Abdelmouni with her, while Adef travels very far and won’t be back for a while.
When we asked what they miss most about Darfur, the adults and older teenagers give the same answer mangoes (reason #22) and guavas (reason #23). They don’t have fruit trees here and up until this year I hadn’t seen any watermelon. Now it grows on their roofs and fences! From what they describe, Darfuris had both fields near their homes, and fruit trees littered through the villages. They were sustainable and what they did not use, they traded or sold in the market.
Unfortunately, one answer we are getting more and more often is that they don’t remember what Darfur was like. This is mostly from teenagers who fled when they were seven, eight, or even ten. Their memories of Darfur, after seven long years of living in a camp, are lost (reason #24).
The camp is full of children under 10 who are too young to remember more than being tied to their mothers backs during the journey to Chad. What will their life be like in the future? Will they only learn to farm far from their homeland or will they have a chance to return and learn the traditional ways to survive sustainably in this harsh environment? For the sake of humanity, I hope its the latter.