For decades already, The United Methodist Church in Hungary has been striving to improve the living conditions and future prospects of disadvantaged and often marginalized people in Roma communities in the country.
It is true that the exact number of Roma in Hungary cannot be quantified, as some Roma do not call themselves such for fear of social exclusion and stigmatization. What is clear, however, is that the Roma community in Hungary is the country's largest ethnic minority group with over 700,000 members. The UMC in Hungary has been standing alongside the Roma for decades - today its activities mainly focus on the villages and cities of Abony, Alsózsolca, Kisvaszar, Kürtöspuszta, Somogyfajsz and Tatabánya.
An important part of the activities consists in organizing help for self-help – for example in the form of an agricultural program. The aim of this program is to guide families and communities in cultivating backyard gardens.
Fruit trees have been planted in several places in the country, and grapes are now growing here and there. A lot of vegetables are also grown: tomatoes, potatoes, beans, peppers, etc. With the growing harvest, the Roma families are able to provide for themselves to an encouraging extent. This is also the case where poultry, rabbit and goat breeding complements fruit and vegetable growing. It is, however, also an aim of the agricultural program that Roma families can earn at least a certain income – for instance by growing and selling quince.
While up to now practically all work within the agricultural program has been done by hand, there are now first attempts to think on a larger scale and to take steps towards mechanized agriculture. This is being done in cooperation with an ecumenical aid organization.
A greenhouse is to be built in Kürtöspuszta before the end of this year in order to improve and extend vegetable growing.
Those responsible for the agricultural program are convinced that the rediscovery of the backyard gardens and a further development of current activities are important steps towards self-sufficiency for the Roma living in rural areas. Where adults acquire the necessary knowledge and later pass it on to their children, good conditions are created for the aid provided today to have a beneficial effect on the living conditions of the people in the long term.
Source: UMC in Hungary / Urs Schweizer, Assistant to the bishop, Zurich (Switzerland)