As we drive towards Tongogara Refugee Camp, l cannot help but think about the lived experiences of those that have been displaced in our world. These are people who have fled conflict, persecution or violence, people who feel that they have no option but to flee their homes, settle in other countries, and quickly adapt their lifestyles to a new environment.
How do people cope in the midst of living this uncertain experience? Can refugee camps provide a new lease of life for those displaced, or a renewed sense of hope? While these thoughts are running through my head, we suddenly arrive at Tongogara Refugee Camp, in the Chipinge region of Zimbabwe.
My first port of call is the One Love Butchery and shop where I am welcomed by Mr. Simon Longo (51), the chairperson of the group. This initiative is a result of the One Love poultry and piggery production group’s diversification and entrepreneurial endeavours. Simon proudly takes me through two businesses on the premises. The first is a butchery and the second is a shop. This remarkable Congolese man is a self-driven leader who relocated to Tongogara Refugee Camp in 2012. An electrical engineer by profession, Simon states that when he left his home country, he had lost hope of ever working again, making an income, or having the ability to create a positive influence in people’s lives.
Simon joined GOAL's projects in 2015 and has been learning about piggery and poultry production. He joined two groups namely the poultry project which has 50 members, comprised of 28 females and 22 males, alongside a piggery project with 46 members made up of 16 females and 30 males. At the moment, the group he is involved in have a total of 545 pigs and 300 chickens. The groups have generated about $98,000 since the project’s inception in 2015.
To complement the efforts of the groups and to ensure that there is a constant provision of fresh meat at the camp, GOAL constructed a butchery and cold room for One Love. Simon indicated to me that the butchery and cold room have added significant value to their operations, although the group still faces some challenges.
“We are now slaughtering chickens and pigs and selling them within the camp so we are now providing fresh meat for refugees. However, we face limitations with power, which limits the number of animals that are slaughtered.”
Today, the butchery is boosting the group’s earnings. It sells 50 kg of pork every two days at a price of just $3 per kilogram. From the proceeds they make at the butchery, the groups are further purchasing day-old chicks from National Foods which are slaughtered after seven weeks. This ensures that the butchery is always adequately stocked with chicken which is sold at $6 per kilogram.
Next, Simon takes us to the second shop, which is stocked with stock feed.
“We are operating a shop which supplies feed locally to refugees, where we repackage the product as a group. The community was incurring costs of sourcing their feed as far as Checheche and Chipinge town, about 80 kilometres away from the camp.”
“We sell about 10 buckets of feed per day at a price of $2.50. There is a lot of potential in agro-dealership and it is our hope that we stock more products in the near future. We are delighted that we have engaged National Foods to contract us to sell their feed within the camp.”
Simon adds that as a father, he is able to put food on the table for his wife Alpha (48) and their six children. Through GOAL, he is also imparting leadership skills onto other refugees within the camp as a Coach within the organisation, under the Graduation Approach.
“GOAL has given me hope. I did not believe I would ever get the chance to be involved in these initiatives, that now enables me to raise an income for my household. I want to say thank you for GOAL for giving me the chance to improve my skills base, so I can change other people’s lives as a mentor,” he adds.
As l departed the camp, some final thoughts occurred to me. Despite facing the challenges of displacement, I can see how refugees have made a home out of the camp, and are feeling hopeful for the future. I could not help but smile and be hopeful with them.