Chasing Freedom and Opportunity
By Binti Musa / AjA Blog
The Bahati Mamas are a group of five Somali Bantu women living in City Heights who started their own farming business. The women are Somali Bantu Refugees who were forced to leave their home in 2004 to seek refuge in the United States because of the civil war in Somalia.
The Bahati Mamas, (left to right), Hajia Kangame, Sitey Mbere, Maganey Ramazani, Hawa Ahamed and Khadija Musame, are a group of five Somali Bantu refugees living in City Heights who started their own farming business in 2009.
The Somali Bantu refugees had to leave everything they knew. As part of their resettlement, the International Recuse Committee (IRC) helped the refugee families find jobs, learn English and help their children get an education. The refugees faced many challenges while learning American customs; one of these challenges was finding good, quality, organic produce for the families in their community. This served as an impetus for people of the Somali Bantu community to begin efforts to farm like they did in their old home.
The Somali Bantu community went to the IRC for help to find land where they could produce their own food. As a result, in 2007, refugees in City Heights received a small plot of land with the help of the IRC on University and Chollas Parkway called the New Roots Community Garden.
One of the Bahati Mamas, City Heights resident Maganey Ramazani, is cleaning the brush and leaves from the spring season in preparation for the summer season at the Tierra Miguel farm in Escondido, California.
At this time the Bahati Mamas, began selling their produce for extra income and in 2009, they started their own organic produce farming business. For the past five years the Bahati Mamas have sold their produce locally; mainly in the City Heights Farmers market.
“All our produce is organic,” said one of the Bahati Mamas, Sitey Mbere.“We would like to put our produce in local schools so our children can get healthy food.”
One of the Bahati Mamas, City Heights resident Hajia Kangame, is holding onions she harvested from the spring crop.
“We are lucky to live in a place like San Diego that reminds us of our homeland,” said Hawa Ahamd, one of the Bahati Mamas. The Somali Bantu women live in City Heights and say they will never leave the area.
Once they outgrew their space at the New Roots Community Garden in City Heights, the Bahati Mamas acquired an additional piece of land in Escondido, California through the IRC, called Tierra Miguel. The IRC facilitates the land usage for the women and the Bahati Mamas pay a monthly fee to farm the land and sell their fresh, organic produce to local markets.
With the help of organizations such as the IRC, the Bahati Mamas created a successful business from a simple idea. The strong group of Somali Bantu women continues to inspire their families, friends and peers as leaders in their community.
The Bahati Mamas, (front to back), Sitey Mbere, Hawa Ahamed and Maganey Ramazani, are transporting soil to a field at the Tierra Miguel farm in Escondido to prepare for the summer season.
The Bahati Mamas go to Tierra Miguel in Escondido every Saturday and Sunday from the early morning to the late afternoon. They use the Somali Bantu community van for transportation and it takes them over an hour to drive each direction, both to and from the farm.
“We pay for gas and pay the driver as a thank you for helping with transportation, but our goal is to get our own van with (the Bahati Mama’s) logo someday,” said Mbere.
In 2010, the First Lady Michelle Obama came to the New Roots farm to speak about the importance of eating healthy and show her support for urban gardens. The Bahati Mamas were happy that the First Lady supports healthy food. They have hopes the president will come visit the community garden as well because, as they say jokingly, “he’s our brother.”
The Bahati Mamas hold on to their old traditions but they believe America has given their families more opportunities then they had in Somalia.
The Bahati Mamas have plans to expand their business and hope to gain continued recognition and support from other community-based organizations in the process.
“We want everyone to know who the Bahati Mamas are and who the Somalia Bantu (Refugees) are,” said Maganey Ramazani, one of the Bahati Mamas. Although they are proud of the work they have accomplished, the Bahati Mamas say this is just the beginning.
Local residents may purchase fresh, organic produce from the Bahati Mamas at the IRC booth at the City Heights Farmers Market from 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays. For more information on how to support the Bahati Mamas, please visit http://www.rescue.org/new-roots/bahati-mamas.
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