Plant It Forward

Farmers

Toto Alimasi

Master Farmer

Alimasi is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he was a high school French teacher and a human rights activist. He and his family (to include his wife, PIFF Farmer Fatuma) spent many years in Uganda after being forced to flee the DRC, and it was there where they learned market farming techniques. They were granted resettlement in the U.S. and arrived here in 2011. Alimasi speaks English, Swahili, French, Lingala, and Fuliiru. What he most loves about Houston is “the welcoming people and the community around my children’s school.” His favorite thing about farming is to see the culmination of his hard work through harvesting and sharing a meal of food he grew himself with his family. His favorite crop to grow is okra! (Fun fact: Alimasi means ‘diamond’ in Swahili)

Press: Waste Land, Promised Land (Orion Mag.), After Harvey, Resettled Refugees Who Found Opportunity Farming Rebuild Again (The Urban Edge)

Christine Kengue

Master Farmer

Christine is from the Republic of Congo (aka Congo-Brazzaville). After fleeing conflict, she spent time in Moanda, DRC and later was resettled in Houston in 2009. She speaks French, Znebi, Lingala, and is continuing to learn English when not working on her farm. The weather in Houston is her favorite thing about the city, as it’s familiar and advantageous to a Congo-raised farmer. Christine most enjoys farming for the sense of peace and accomplishment that harvesting provides. Her favorite crops to grow are tomatoes, eggplant, and lettuce.

Sarment Louamba

Master Farmer

Sarment is originally from the Republic of Congo (aka Congo-Brazzaville). He fled Brazzaville and spent time in Kinshasa and Mouanda in the DRC, before spending ten years as a refugee in Gabon. He’s held jobs driving an 18-wheeler and as a window assembler, before turning to farming in Gabon. Sarment speaks English, French, Lari, Lingala, and Munukutuba. He was resettled with his family in Houston in 2009. He loves Houston because “I truly enjoy being a farmer here. It is my life.” His favorite thing about farming is that it relaxes him and it’s safer than driving an 18-wheeler. He appreciates being his own boss, being independent, and setting his own schedule. Arugula is his favorite crop to grow.

Press: After Harvey, Resettled Refugees Who Found Opportunity Farming Rebuild Again (The Urban Edge), After Hurricane Harvey, Houston Heals Through Food (Civil Eats), Refugee Farmers Growing in Houston’s Food Desert (Bittersweet Monthly)

Constant Ngouala

Master Farmer

Hometown: Houston, by way of the Republic of Congo

Press: Waste Land, Promised Land (Orion Mag.), How Houston Chefs Collaborate With Refugee Farmers to Produce Some of the City’s Best Dishes (Eater Houston)

Roy Nlemba

Master Farmer

Hometown: Houston, by way of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Press: It was My Dream to Farm Here (Sugar & Rice)

Bobilya Apendeki

Farmer

Bobilya and her family are originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They spent many years in Tanzania before being granted resettlement in the U.S. in 2016. She’s always been a farmer and she speaks Swahili, Kimbembe, and is studiously and fearlessly learning English. She loves the weather in Houston because it’s not too cold! Her favorite thing about farming is that it’s a familiar activity; she’s been doing it her “whole life!” Bobilya offers recommendations for others based on her life experiences: take up farming or gardening and take every opportunity to learn in school. She also welcomes volunteers and customers to visit her farm. Her favorite crop to grow (and eat) is broccoli.

Bora Neema

Farmer

Bora comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where she was working toward a family counseling college degree before being forced to flee. She’s worked as a farmer, seamstress, and nutritionist and over her lifetime she has lived in or passed through Bukavu, Uvira, Goma, Butembo, and Lubero in the DRC; Nairobi, Kenya; and lastly was resettled in Houston along with her husband (PIFF Farmer Pierre) in 2017. Bora speaks French, Lingala, Swahili, Mashi, Kihavu, and is making rapid strides in learning English. Her favorite thing about Houston is the “good, caring people” she and her family have met, the climate being similar to Africa (“it feels like home”), and her ability to find work in farming. She says, “I like America; it is a welcoming place for immigrants.” Bora’s favorite thing about farming is that she can deliver healthy, organic food to the people. She gets to use the same farming methods she learned back home in Africa — chemical-free and regenerating. She especially enjoys growing carrots, lettuce, arugula, and Chinese broccoli. In addition to farming with PIFF, Bora is a dressmaker with The Community Cloth and welcomes family counseling clients to talk through tough times and family hardships with her.

Henriette Ngangoula

Farmer

 

Elizabeth, Oretha, & Mabel Nyuma

Farmers

 

Materanya (‘Pierre’) Ruchinagiza

Farmer

Pierre hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), specifically Bukavu, in the east of the country along Lake Kivu. After fleeing the DRC, he spent time in Bjumbura, Burundi; Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania; and Nairobi, Kenya. He and his wife, PIFF Farmer Bora, were granted resettlement to the U.S. and arrived in Houston in 2017. Pierre is speedily learning English and also speaks French, Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Mashi, Kihavu, Kifulero, and Lingala. His favorite thing about Houston is the weather; the tropical-ish climate reminds him of Africa. He’s a savvy jack-of-all-trades, having in the past worked as a general secretary in education; as a store owner selling food staples; as a pastor; and as a farmer raising poultry, rabbit, and vegetables. He loves farming because it encapsulates his life’s experiences. His favorite crops to grow are Hakurei turnips, Napa cabbages, radishes, lettuce mix, and kale. Ever the businessman, he welcomes your investment in his and Bora’s farming enterprise!

Fatuma Rukundo

Farmer