For a South Sudanese refugee, a place to put down roots

Grace, 29, harvests vegetables from her shared farm in Uganda. Last year she fled her home country of South Sudan to escape violent conflict.
May 11, 2018

Soon after Grace learned to walk, she learned to flee.

Now 29 years old, she has fled to Uganda two separate times because of conflict in her home country of South Sudan.

Grace, like so many other South Sudanese people, was forced to leave her home behind to save herself and her four children from violence. Last time she fled with her family — at the age of 2 — was also due to conflict.

She hopes she’ll be able to return home again soon.

Where she’s from, vulnerable, innocent families are being torn apart by a war that threatens their very existence. Villages are being burned to the ground. Children go days without eating. People are dying from cholera because clean water is so scarce. Families spend their days simply trying to stay alive.

Coming to Uganda was Grace’s chance to leave all of that behind — but it also meant leaving most of her possessions. And her parents. “There's no clear communication,” Grace says. “I don't know how they are doing. They also don't know how we are doing here in Uganda. So I'm very uncomfortable.”

After a long and devastating journey, she and her children arrived in Uganda with almost nothing.

Grace portrait
Grace fled the conflict with her four children in tow, but she left her parents behind. She doesn’t know how they’re faring.

“We were put on buses and then we were brought here,” she says of the refugee camp where they now live. “We were dropped here.”

Due to the protracted nature of the conflict in South Sudan, many refugees must remain in Uganda for the foreseeable future. That’s why it’s critical to help refugees like Grace and people in their host communities establish livelihoods that can sustain them.

For Grace, that livelihood is farming.

Together with 24 other households, she is part of a Mercy Corps-supported farmers’ group made up of Ugandan and South Sudanese men and women who combine their resources to buy more vegetable seeds, harvest more produce and improve their yields.

Read another story of how farming brought two women together in Uganda ▸

Once the crops are harvested, Grace will work with the rest of her group to sell the produce.

Together, they are empowered to rise above their difficult circumstances and build a stronger community from within.

Hands holding green peppers
These peppers and eggplants are the first yields from the farm that are ready to be sold at nearby markets.

Until now, Grace has had to make devastating choices — like selling her family’s basic food rations so she could buy other necessities. When she sells this new produce at a nearby market, she won’t have to.

"Through the sales, I can acquire soap and medicine for my family," she says.

Grace holding ripe eggplants

Mercy Corps also helps farmers establish village savings and loan associations so that Grace — and so many others like her — can begin to save the money they earn through the sale of their crops.

As Grace waits for conflict to end in South Sudan, she’s at least able to begin building a future for her family. “We want peace to return in South Sudan so that we can get back to our country. And settle,” she says.

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