Everything in the Hamada of the Sahara Desert seems to be against the chances of a seed sending out roots, finding nourishment and sustaining life – the beating sun, dry ground and temporary nature of its settlers being just a few of those things. Yet some Saharawis have been able to cultivate gardens and see life thrive in spite of that, teaching us all some very important lessons through their efforts.
Those who have undertaken the challenge to grow produce in the Saharawi camps have had their fair share of setbacks and have had to persist in the face of many hardships because of the value they see in their gardens. In addition to the adversaries mentioned above, they regularly deal with goats getting into their plants, water shortages, and sometimes their neighbors’ pessimism. They also have to wrestle with what this sort of project means for their outlook on living in the refugee camps – does causing plants to send down roots into this sand mean that they are accepting this temporary location as home? Agriculturalists I conversed with would say no – they don’t see a conflict between making the best of the current situation but being ready at the drop of a hat to go home.
Home-grown produce is valuable not only for improving the bland diet provided by humanitarian aid, but it opens people’s eyes to the fact that some things they have always considered impossible might just be within their reach. It adds color and life and new scents and flavors to an other wise bland landscape, and reminds the people of the color and life that they themselves contribute to their world.
The entire peaceful yet committed endurance the Saharawi people have shown as a whole over their 45 years of exile is the ultimate picture of thriving against all odds, and these gardens are a tangible symbol of that.
Post By: Heather Jost, July 7th, 2020