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Australia Mildura community farm brings peace to refugees from war-torn Burundi and the Congo

07:45  23 november  2019
07:45  23 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Raheri, a war widow in the village of Gitukura, in northern Burundi . With support from UNDP and funding from the EU, Japan and the Netherlands, the Government of Burundi has initiated a Yet, aside form providing economic support and reconstruction, the programme also brings about social

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a little boy that is standing in the grass: Burundi refugee David Majambere preparing the land to plant seeds with wife Joselyn Majambere. (ABC Rural: Cherie von Hörchner)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Burundi refugee David Majambere preparing the land to plant seeds with wife Joselyn Majambere. (ABC Rural: Cherie von Hörchner)

East African refugees are creating new lives with old skills in the Sunraysia Mallee district in Victoria's northwest.

Mildura's Burundian Community Farm, a joint project between local non-government community groups, has been a source of work for hundreds of refugees since its inception in 2016, and has produced for the wider community hundreds of kilograms of maize.

But the farm's most striking success stories can be found in the words of those who work its fields.

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Refugee numbers from the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo swelled in the mid- to late 1990s as people tried to escape civil war. “We feel that the local knowledge of the community is going to be invaluable as we bring in the refugees ,” Carr said. Those who fled the Congo may speak

The Second Congo War (also known as the Great War of Africa or the Great African War, and sometimes referred to as the African World War) began in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in August 1998, little more than a year after the First Congo War, and involved some of the same issues.

David Majambere, a former farmer from Burundi, is one of the people making a new life here.

Burundi is a landlocked sub-Saharan African nation which, last year, ranked last out of 156 countries in the United Nations' .

'Love my life here'

"I've been here for two months and one week," Mr Majambere said.

"I love my life here because I managed to find the work I did back at home, so that made me love the place."

The civil war in Burundi, which has raged hot and cold since 1962, forced Mr Majambere to flee to Kenya, where he spent six years in a Nairobi refugee camp before coming to Australia.

"My life in the refugee camp was not easy," he said.

"However, when you are freed from war, you accept any place."

He prefers it here.

Coping with the weather

Mildura community farm© abc Mildura community farm

"Today I am planting corn and beans," Mr Majambere said.

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DR Congo emergency. Fresh waves of unrest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have Hopes soared after a long and costly civil war was brought to an end in 2003, but the nation has Refugees from countries like the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Burundi , who have Most of these refugees settle in local Congolese communities and many can become self-reliant with some support.

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"Back in Burundi, to grow food and prepare the soil, we used to use a hoe, but when I came here I found it was all machine.

"Also, the process of getting water into the soil — we don't have that process.

"We don't have this sort of irrigation. We only use rain water, or carry it ourselves from the river.

"Depending on where your farm is located, some people walk ten kilometres."

Surprisingly, the one thing Mr Majambere's having a hard time coping with is Mildura's weather.

"Right now, back in Burundi, it's the wet season, but, as you can see here, it's summer," he said.

"It's never this hot in Burundi — the temperature is always in the middle.

"That's why I'm working early this morning. I'm trying to beat the weather."

Aim is to be reunited with son

Mildura community farm© ABC Mildura community farm

Justine Nyirakamana, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been here with her husband for six months, having spent the better part of a decade in a refugee camp in Rwanda.

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"It's been a while since I grew my own food," she said.

"We did have a farm back home, but, because of the war, we didn't get to enjoy the harvests.

"We lost everything. We had to leave."

Ms Nyirakamana said there is "no contest" between Mildura and the Rwandan refugee camp.

"My life here is great, you know — If I had a way to bring all my [loved ones] they would all come with me here."

Specifically, Ms Nyirakamana would like to be reunited with her son, who for years she believed to be dead until, on the eve of her arrival in Australia, she discovered he was alive and living with an adopted family in Poland.

"I lost one of my sons when he was very young — he was kidnapped when he was 14 and he was taken to join the army.

"Luckily someone helped him to escape.

"I didn't find out until I was just about to come to Australia.

"We have approached some people who might be able to help, but until now we haven't had any response."

Mildura community farm© ABC Mildura community farm

For now, Ms Nyirakamana is happy in her new life, regardless of the harvest.

The work keeps her mind off things.

"Today, it's planting day, and I'm enjoying it," she said.

"Because, when I'm doing it, it feels like I'm doing a sport, or I'm at the gym," she said.

Over 20 refugees reportedly flown to Australia under medevac laws .
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