The U.N. High Commission for Refugees says that in the five years since camps were established in Southern Chad for Central African refugees, U.N.-administered agriculture programs have reduced external food assistance to a minimum.
Since 2006, Boubacar Amadou, a 62-year-old Chad native, has overseen a portfolio of food self-sufficiency programs for more than 20,000 Central African refugees in Gore. The refugees here are among 60,000 who fled fighting in the Central African Republic beginning in 2003.
But the refugees compete with local residents for access to limited land for farming and grazing cattle.
IPS reporter David Axe spoke to Amadou at the UNHCR office in Gore about his work and his hopes for the area’s refugees.
IPS: What does “food self-sufficiency” mean in the context of a refugee camp?
Boubacar Amadou: Right now the World Food Program gives refugees in Gore some of their food – around 90 kilograms per person, per year, on average. (Overall, WFP meets around half of the Gore refugees’ food needs.) But it’s necessary, in the long term, that they produce what they need on their own. Thus we sponsor agricultural, animal husbandry and other income-generating activities, so they can feed themselves. We want to help lead them there.
What we do is prepare the people for a degree of integration into the local economy. It’s a durable solution to their food needs. Obviously, the best solution to a refugee’s needs is repatriation. But the next best thing is integration.