A raindrop becomes a blessing in a decade
Global food shortage as a result of human-induced Climate Change, conflicts, or Covid-19 pandemic has been a scourge impacting every society. This is the situation at Tongogara Refugee Camp, a climate-shock-prone area of Chipinge, Zimbabwe, about 420 km southeast of the capital city—Harare—with over 15,000 forcefully displaced people, mostly from Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique, South Sudan and Ethiopia. Refugees, whose livelihoods are livestock and crops production, are climate-shock vulnerable people, whose resilience to adapt to unpredictable weather patterns needs a holistic approach.
The increase of climate-induced shocks like droughts, cyclones, extreme heat waves, and unpredictable rainfalls, weighs drastic negative impacts on Zimbabwe, a country with a strong tradition of agricultural production, as the small scale farmers produce very little to feed themselves.
In Tongogara Refugee Camp, the government-allocated land for small-scale refugee gardeners had been a very powerful tool for refugees’ resiliance, as this had been an income-generating means for many years, but with the current impact of climate change, the future is bleak. “I own a 24 by 24 garden line irrigation scheme, but the last time I had a good harvest was in 2020. Last year, I harvested very little maize and bean stock and this is due to lack of enough water for the crops,” said Mama Irakoze, a Rwandese mother of five children.
As a result of climate change, food insecurity, compounded by insufficient income-generating opportunities and declining livelihoods will likely confine refugees to humanitarian aid. “What we have noted in the garden is the emergence of some new pests while the insufficient fertilizer we get for the crops seems ineffective,” said the leader of elderly people from Congo after I asked him if the traditional way of farming is still working.
“At the irrigation scheme, we have seven sections supplied by one canal and sometimes it takes close to two weeks without watering your crops, while the heat is withering them,” said the leader. “Another problem is that the water for irrigation is diverted without notice by other farmers and that reduces the pressure of water to the designated sections,” he added.
The consequences of dilapidated livelihoods and fewer income-generating opportunities fall very much on young people, with school children being forced to dropout from school as they seek other means to see to their needs and make ends meet through child labor. Young girls secretly do transactional sex from urban settling and boys are involved in drugs and petty crimes, just to insure some way to complement humanitarian aid.
Teenage pregnancy and drug abuse increased during school holidays, after boys and girls came home, only to find spending time together worrying, as hunger imposed barriers between learning and a joyous holiday. “Things have changed a lot, we rear goats and grow crops, but we are not aware of what is happening. Our goats have run out of grass in the bush, as the rain is not raining like before. We ask for more fertilizers, and a sufficient amount of water for our crops,” said Mama Sam, a 52-year old Burundian mother who has managed livestock for many years.
With the efforts of the government, UNHCR, World Vision, and other implementing partners, Tongogara Refugee Camp can support meaningful livelihoods and other means of income-generating activities for refugees, but the impact of climate change is adding many layers of challenges. As the climate-induced disasters increase, food insecurity will stretch the vulnerability of persons of concern unless the government, UNHCR and partner organizations double their effort.
15 November, 2022