Massive land degradation at Tongogara Refugee Camp

By ZBC Reporter
REFUGEES at Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge say they have found a way to generate income at the facility following a nod by authorities to do brick molding which has consequently resulted in massive land degradation.

Some of the refugees, largely men, told the ZBC News they are making profit from the situation which is being driven by high demand for bricks due to increased population at the camp which now calls for more houses.

“We are grateful that the camp authorities have allowed us to continue in this trade. We don’t have any other means to earn and support our families and at the same time we cannot continue to rely on the government for everything….”, said one Congolese national.

Added another brick molder, “This camp is growing everyday and now there is pressure on accommodation so we are the ones supplying all the bricks…”

While the situation may be above board, there are rising fears of a next wave of deforestation as firewood is needed to properly treat the farm brick type they are producing.

“We are not allowed to cut down trees so we actually buy firewood that we are allocated to at the camp”, they said.

Camp administrator Johannes Mhlanga said the authorities are on top of the situation adding that the land would be rehabilitated in due course to maintain safe environmental preservation.

“It’s piece of land commissioned for refugees to mold bricks as part of income generation. There is high demand for bricks due to massive development projects being spearheaded by different partners in the camp to enhance refugee lives…”

He said the increased population of refugees at the camp has pushed them to improvise and ensure they create projects within the camp while also keeping them occupied to avoid cases of misconduct.

“Refugees are also making use of these bricks to construct their own shops and houses. The idea behind is to promote self reliance and work ethics for refugees in a regulated manner…. ”

He adds, “Remember an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. It is important to note that most of the beneficiaries of the land in question are youths. It’s part and parcel of a wholesome approach to address negative coping mechanisms for youth in the camp. When youths are occupied they run away from drug and substance abuse, prostitution among other vices. However, the land will be rehabilitated as part of land reclamation”.
The camp is home to about 14 thousand refugees and asylum seekers, a growing population that has put immense pressure on the few available resources.