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Refugees Plant New Roots in US Through Farming

  • Ricci Shryock

On a farm near Phoenix, Liberian refugee James Golo supports his family of seven by selling a variety of local crops.

Golo was an accountant before he fled civil war in Liberia more than twenty years ago. He arrived in Ghana in 1990, where he and his family would live for the next 15 years.

“We had no opportunity of employment, so you had to find the means. That’s when I started an agriculture farm,” he said.

Eventually in 2005, the Golo family was able to move to the United States. They were relocated to the southern state of Arizona.

“When I moved to Phoenix in 2005 I was eager to go into farming,” said Golo.

In 2008, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) trained Golo and other refugees on local farming methods. Today he says these tools helped him create a thriving organic farming business that enabled him to pay for his five children to attend college.

“Lots of the refugees are going into farming,” says Golo, who adds that refugees from Togo, Somalia, Ivory Coast and other African countries can be found selling their produce at the local farmer’s market.

“When you go into the farmer’s market you don’t want to have one crop to sell, but you have many crops and by all means somebody will buy from you,” he added.

Golo and his family grow okra, carrots, Swiss chard, melons and more.

According to the IRC’s “New Roots” program, which helped train and support Golo, last year 22 more refugee farmers signed leases to farm 26 acres south of Phoenix.

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