SYDNEY SAIZE RECENTLY AT TONGOGARA CAMP
Refugees at the Tongogara Camp, located near Chipinge in Manicaland Province, say they are struggling to survive.
The camp is home to nearly 15 000 people displaced by mainly armed conflict from their countries of origin.
Most of them are from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Ethiopia, Mozambique, and Rwanda among others.
“It is a struggle to survive my brother,” Richard Bushiri from Burundi told Business Times.
He added: “Those not in agriculture are enterprising enough to run some grocery tuck-shops, some hair salons, beer outlets and hardware shops. You find almost everything my brother.”
Bushiri is the chairperson of the local small agricultural project that is being run at the refugee Camp.
The agricultural project is under irrigation and a few selected families are the beneficiaries and have at least 0.25 hectares of land they farm.
At the moment most families put the land under maize.
“The land is not enough and many are left out,” Bushiri said, adding that the project could be extended to many deserving families to rescue them from the jaws of poverty and the dependency syndrome.
He said the land should be put under irrigation.
“Without irrigation there is no crop production in this area. It is very arid as you can see, and so the cry for more land cannot be over emphasised and that land has to be under irrigation,” Bushiri said.
He said most of what the farmers grow is for their own consumption, while in some instances they sell to fellow refugees.
The farmers grow a variety of crops among them beans, wheat, fresh vegetables, that include tomatoes, onions, peas, carrots among others.
As the struggle for survival at the camp rages on, other families are into banana production.
The banana crop also under irrigation is for a few lucky families as well, but the thrust is not to leave anyone behind.
Another farmer who is part of the banana project Jerome Kamwana from the DRC said the crop was doing well and only sells their harvest to locals as they cannot satisfy the market owing to increased demand.
“We are very grateful for being part of this project. We thank the Government of Zimbabwe first, for giving us sanctuary and the peace we enjoy here.
“Secondly, we’re thankful for the land that we were parcelled out to grow these banana plants we have here. We have managed to sustain our families and other dependents through farming,” said Kamwana, a father of five children and two grandchildren.
However, Kamwana said the appeal from most of the refugees is to have a bigger area to be serviced and be under irrigation to cater for the greater number of the inhabitants at the camp.
As the refugees seek for self-reliance at the camp, they are involved in numerous income generation programmes.
Among these programmes to ensure food security and self-dependence is fish farming, pig rearing, chicken and goat farming, soap making among other projects that have made the refugees manage to put food on the table.
Tongogara camp which got a rousing praise and commendation from the acting US ambassador to Zimbabwe, Elaine French, over its orderliness and cleanliness during her recent visit has facilities that make life easier for many that stay there; save for the searing temperatures.
“I have been to many refugee camps around the globe, but to be very honest, I have never come across one that is like this place, Tongogara Refugees Camp. This place is clean, you don’t see litter everywhere, it is orderly and smart, I applaud and salute the authorities here and the camp manager,” said Ambassador French.
Ambassador French’s comments bear testimony of efforts by Tongogara camp manager Johannes Mhlanga and his team who have made strides in ensuring the lives of the family Zimbabwe is hosting is safe and in line with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.