HOTLINE - week of August 8, 2011

Feeling Africa's drought in Kenya and in the U.S.; Learning new garden watering in the Chaco; Hotline survey

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Sagul Mohammed Omar in Kenya
Sagul Mohammed Omar, 24, arrived with her five children in the Dadaab refugee camp in northeastern Kenya. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled drought-stricken Somalia in recent weeks, swelling what was already the world's largest refugee settlement.
Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance

Feeling Africa’s drought in Kenya and in the U.S.

Dahir Adan, 30, and his wife Fartun Muhumed, 26, are refugees from Somalia, resettled to the U.S. in February 2010 by Church World Service and Community Immigration and Refugee Services of Ohio.  They live in Columbus, with their four small children, but they worry for their drought-afflicted relatives back home in the Horn of Africa.

“They have no shelter, no food, no clothes,” Fartun says.  “In Somalia they depended on livestock and all the livestock they had perished due to the severe drought.”

Before coming to the U.S., Fartun and his immediate family were in Kenya’s sprawling Dadaab refugee camps for 17 years.  Designed for 90,000 people, the camps’ population has quadrupled to 420,000 and continues to grow by 1,500 people daily as people stream in from famine-stricken southern Somalia.

The UNHCR reports that some 116,000 Somali refugees have arrived in Dadaab so far this year.  About 76,000 of them arrived in Dadaab in the last two months alone.

Africa's drought affects more than 10 million people across Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

CWS is helping 97,000 households in Kenya, providing emergency food, water and relief in addition to long-term support.  CWS is also supporting the efforts of ACT Alliance and other partners working in the Dadaab camp, in Kenya, as well as those assisting drought-affected families in Somalia and Ethiopia.

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Learning new garden watering techniques in the Chaco

Indigenous women of the Chaco region in South America are learning to grow vegetables with less water than usual, using clay pots.

The Chaco region has an unpredictable and severe dry season, so taking care of rainwater is crucial to life and nutrition.  As part of its food security program in the Chaco CWS supports the use of appropriate technologies for water management.

With help from the Committee of Churches for Emergency Assistance in Paraguay, indigenous women from small villages across the Paraguayan Chaco attend four-day training sessions at a center specializing in experimental water and irrigation technologies.  They learn how to make and use hand-made clay pots, which are buried in the ground and then fruit trees and vegetables are planted around them.  The pots are filled with water that is slowly released and absorbed by roots.

“With traditional systems, corn needs 50 gallons of water to grow,” says Rosa, a Paraguayan agronomist in the program.  “Using clay pots you only need 4 ? to 5 gallons.  With 50 pots, that requires a total of 8 gallons of water per week, a family can secure 30 percent of the vegetables it needs in a year.”

A young woman in the program once collected a 5-gallon bucket of water four times a day, walking 10 miles a day to carry the water.  Reducing the volume of water from 20 gallons a day to 8 gallons a week, makes a huge difference to her life.

The women learn how to use different versions of water pots and how to make them in their own communities with local clay.  They go back to their communities with a water pot they made, ready to apply the new techniques and knowledge right away.

“I can’t wait to start my own garden with this system.  I want to plant tomatoes, pepper, watermelon, lettuce, onion, pumpkins and more,” says Josefa, an indigenous woman, excited after graduating from the course.

With secured production of vegetables, families will be able to sell surpluses locally and have more income.

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