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Find out why they call themselves "lucky"— and how they inspired the New Roots program.

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The Bahati Mamas: Seeds of Change

Meet the Bahati Mamas and other people whose lives were changed after a vacant lot in San Diego was transformed into a “New Roots” community farm.
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A decade ago, thousands of Somali Bantu refugees who had fled civil war in their home country were granted sanctuary in the United States. In San Diego, IRC staff helped arriving Somali Bantu families to find jobs, learn English and enroll their children in school. But starting new lives in a city where the language, the customs—even the grocery stores—were unfamiliar presented numerous challenges.

Somali Bantu leaders asked the IRC for help in finding land where their community could grow their own food, as they had for centuries in Somalia. With our assistance, Somali Bantu farmers won approval to transform a 2.3-acre vacant lot near the IRC’s San Diego office into an urban farm. By the end of the first summer, refugee farmers from around the world were harvesting 1,000 pounds of fresh produce a week. The IRC provided ongoing technical support, helping them to adapt their agrarian skills to the local climate.

Soon after, a group of women who had helped inspire the Somali Bantu community’s quest to farm in San Diego began marketing their produce for extra income. They called themselves the Bahati Mamas, meaning “lucky mamas” in their native language, Kizigua. They say they are lucky to live in a place where they can reestablish their ties to the land and nourish their families and neighbors with what they grow. “We want our children to eat tomatoes, not tomato ketchup,” they say.

Inspired by the leadership and vision of farmers like the Bahati Mamas, the IRC launched the New Roots program to help resettled refugees across the U.S. grow healthy food and share their knowledge and skills with their new communities.

More About the Bahati Mamas


Home Country

When civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991, the Somali Bantu—an unarmed, ethnic minority group—became the targets of devastating violence and looting. Several of the Bahati Mamas lost their husbands in the conflict. Learn more about the IRC’s work in Somalia »

San Diego

New Roots City

Today, the Bahati Mamas grow vegetables at the New Roots Community Farm in City Heights and at Pauma Valley farm, north of San Diego. They sell their produce at farmers markets in City Heights and Point Loma.

"It feels like a blessing that somebody is eating the food I grow." – Hawa of the Bahati Mamas

The Bahati Mamas enjoy turning their fresh produce into a hearty stew to be eaten with ugali, a savory cornmeal cake. This traditional meal is prized in Somalia for providing energy for a long day in the fields. Explore the New Roots Gardens.