Hias Inc

Oldest refugee resettlement organization, providing services to any refugees, asylum seekers and other forcibly displaced populations who are in need of assistance, through a range of education, protection, livelihoods and capacity building programs, targeting the most vulnerable.

Category of Humanitarian Benefit: Knowledge Sharing

Short Biography/Background

Founded in the 1880s to support Jews fleeing pogroms in Central and Eastern Europe, HIAS is the oldest refugee resettlement organization. After 100+ years protecting Jewish refugees, HIAS began assisting and advocating for refugees of all backgrounds in the 1980s. Today, HIAS provides services to any refugees, asylum seekers and other forcibly displaced populations who are in need of assistance, regardless of their national, ethnic or religious background. Although most of the people we serve today are not Jewish, serving them is an expression of Jewish values such as tikkun olam (repairing the world) and welcoming and protecting the stranger.

HIAS has operated in Chad since 2005, reaching hundreds of thousands of refugees through a range of education, protection, livelihoods and capacity building programs in camps in Eastern Chad. HIAS targets the most vulnerable, including survivors of gender-based violence, youth-headed households, the disabled, and elderly refugees. HIAS’ livelihood work is intended to build the capacity of refugees to meet their food security needs as well as safely earn an income. HIAS’ livelihood programming is based on community-driven, localized, and best practice approaches that are sustainable and scalable with limited long-term external support.

Project Name and Description

Permagardening in Chad: Cultivating Refugees’ Self Reliance

Permagarening contributes towards the longer term goal of Darfuri refugees producing their own nutritious crops year round, greatly improving their food security and reducing their reliance upon external assistance and negative coping mechanisms. Interventions build upon the permagardening methodology developed and tested by the TOPs program in dryland zones and Operational Performance {TOPS} under the purview of USAID/Food for Peace. Permagardening is a solution to diversify nutrition and income sources for refugees. It is tailored for the elderly and vulnerable to tend to, while more able-bodied family members are in the fields working.

Permagardening uses a small-scale agricultural technique that maximizes soil fertility and water management using local resources. HIAS adapted the perma-garden methodology for the climate and demographic conditions in Chad using a phased approach that considers agricultural skills and capacities, as well as rainy seasons/agricultural cycles. The highly innovative and cost-effective initiative has helped refugees grow food year-round. The food can be used to meet household food needs as well as to sell for commerce in local camp markets, providing a safer source of income. The project has also provided beneficiaries with a more diverse diet.

As part of the permagardening project, HIAS trains solidarity groups and informal associations in financial literacy and principles of village savings and loans associations (VSLAs). Groups set-up VSLAs to act as an informal safety net and to specifically save funds towards purchase of seeds for the next production year. Financial education will help the solidarity groups and informal associations to acquire solid financial skills to set goals, evaluate risk, negotiate, and control earnings. Lack of financial literacy makes it difficult for refugees to plan for one-time costs or unexpected emergency events. Saving serves as a safety net to help meet basic food needs for the next year and manage risk, thereby promoting sustainability of project interventions.

The project implements a range of knowledge sharing activities. Key activities include:

• Cascading Effect of Training: lead gardeners receive a Training of Trainers (TOT) and then train other community members;

• Geared Towards Illiterate Learners: the TOT teaches the technical components to bio- intensive permaculture using an adult learning methodology geared towards illiterate participants;

• Transferable Skills: many home-garden methodologies are prescriptive and do not teach good agriculture practices, while with this approach, a home garden can easily translate into field crops.


Currently, there are close to 71 million men, women and children being forced to flee their homes

because of conflict, violence or persecution. In Chad, 66% of the refugee population are Darfuris who have been in the camps for close to two decades. Dwindling levels of international aid resulting in severe reductions of food aid means many refugees have no choice but to forage for food, eat one meal a day, or work in fields outside of the camps. This field work is often done by men and older boys, leaving women, girls, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable individuals behind. Women breadwinners are forced to leave the camps to look for work and food, placing them at risk for rape and other forms of gender-based violence as they travel alone outside the camp. 

On top of these grave concerns, the overall scarcity of arable fields, relatively limited access to plots of land, unreliable soil fertility and few sources for water make it difficult to identify sustainable food-growing practices.

Amkala Safi Djouma, an 83 year old who fled Sudan and has resided in Djabal refugee camp since 2003, best reflects on the program’s impact:

“With the vegetables I harvested from my garden, I no longer needed to sell a part of my ration in the market in exchange for vegetables. After feeding my family, I still have some vegetables left to sell in the market. The income I generated from these sales gave me the opportunity to purchase sugar and salt. I am able to cover my family’s basic needs and share my produce with my close-ones, just like the old times in Sudan.”