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Mildura migrant garden spawns children’s book

4 December 20230 comments

A children’s book that celebrates language and traditional farming practices has been created through a remarkable community project in Mildura

Titled, ‘We Are Home’ and created by Mildura’s Food Next Door Co-op, the tri-lingual book sees children involved in the co-op tell the inspiring and heart-warming stories of their families’ arrivals in Australia from different parts of Africa.

They share their passion for growing food and desire to make friends in their new home.

The book grew out of the results of a Food Next Door survey which analysed how people with African backgrounds were faring after settling in Sunraysia.

Case Manager for refugee settlement agency AMES Australia Jules Kangeta said the book, in English, Kirundi and Swahili, tells how culture and practices are passed down the generations.

“The book came out of people wanting to share their knowledge of traditional farming methods with their kids and also to preserve their languages,” said Jules, who is based in Mildura.

“The survey found that people wanted to pass on their farming and cultivations skills to young people but there was a language barrier.

“So, the book was a way of passing on those skills and also preserving the African languages that migrants and refugees speak.

“The parents and their kids were involved. We held a workshop to come up with ideas about what should go in the book.

“And the input from both the kids and the parents resulted in the book being publishes,” Jules said.    

Local artist Kieran Mangan and the kids of the Co-op Community created the artwork that inspire the ‘illustratoons’ in the book.

Food Next Door Executive Officer Shingi Nyabonda said the community project brought out the best of the Mallee as a thriving agricultural region and a place to call home.

“The book is a useful tool for adults as they perfect their English language skills. Look out for the characters in the book, they are real people achieving great things,” Shingi said.

Food Next Door Co-op runs a school holiday program to connect the families of new arrivals to the wider Mildura.

Proceeds from the book will go to expanding and sustaining the school holiday activities which foster community cohesion and well-being.

Food Next Door is a remarkable not-for-profit co-op project based in Mildura, in north-west Victoria, that sees sixty or so mostly African refugees grow traditional foods.

It matches under-utilised farmland with landless farmers to support small-scale regenerative farming, growing diverse crops while also engaging people from diverse backgrounds to supply food to local households.

Each farmer has a small plot on which they grow maize as well as okra, beans, eggplant, turmeric, chard, beetroot, carrots, onions, peas, sugar cane, peanuts and more. They are even attempting to grow bananas.

The co-op, which is a partnership with the local multicultural organisation the Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic communities Council (SMECC), also supplies fresh food to the local ‘Food Hub’ charity which distributes to disadvantaged local families as well as to a business called ‘Out of the Box’, which seels the produce online to local families.

Co-op member Joselyne Majambere, who was also involved in compiling the book, said: “We come here to grow the foods we are used eating. It’s good for us. We come together and grow food together in the way we used to in our homelands.”

“We grow the food organically and in a sustainable way,” she said.