07 September 2016
|The grinding mill is one of the busiest hubs at Tongogara Refugee Camp. There is a sense of community in and around it, as people queue and chat as they wait for their maize meal. (Gushwell F. Brooks/Jesuit Refugee Service)|
|“It has made a big difference in everyone’s life. Before JRS assisted by having the grinding mill brought here, we had to travel very far to have our maize ground into maize meal..."|
Tongogara, 7 September 2016 – Food Distribution in Tongogara Refugee Camp has changed and is now based on a cash system. Instead of specific food items, refugees and asylum seekers in the camp receive cash. The same amount is given per person, so whether it is a large family or a single person per household, each individual in camp gets the same amount of money for their basic nutritional needs.
This system’s greatest benefit is that refugees and asylum seekers are able to exercise greater choice and have a lot more variety to choose from in respect their diets. The money they receive however, is a small amount and the people of Tongogara have to be creative in how they spend it in ensuring they have a balanced diet that lasts the entire month.
Maize meal, cooked into a porridge, is a Southern African staple and forms an essential part of the diet of the people of Tongogara. It is nutritious and cheap and can be turned into large, filling meals. To stretch their dollars, the refugees and asylum seekers in the camp- like many of the locals in the surrounding areas - have opted to buy maize instead of maize meal. Maize on the cob is cheaper than the already processed maize and so the people of Tongogara had to venture into the surrounding communities and pay for the services of grinding mills.
What people in Tongogara saved financially, cost an inconvenience however. They would have to obtain permission to leave the camp, travel long distances, usually on foot, with a heavy load of maize, pay to have it milled into maize meal and then carry it back.
This challenge was recognised as an opportunity by both residents of Tongogara as well as Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS). Now, Mutabesha Kasamira heads a co-operative of 16 refugees and asylum seekers, who are in charge of operating the grinding mill.
“It has made a big difference in everyone’s life. Before JRS assisted by having the grinding mill brought here, we had to travel very far to have our maize ground into maize meal. For the members of the group, it has made a big difference as well, we are making more money and we are able to buy more food, clothes and provide for other needs.” Mutabesha says over the roar of the diesel grinding mill.
The co-operative charge a dollar to strip a bucket of maize from the cob and two dollars per bucket of maize meal, when ground. “It is convenient and inexpensive. Even locals from the surrounding communities come to us, to have their maize ground.” Mutabesha explains.
The grinding mill is one of the busiest hubs at Tongogara Refugee Camp. There is a sense of community in and around it, as people queue and chat as they wait for their maize meal. It has truly made a big and positive difference in everyone’s lives and JRS is proud to have contributed in a small way through the Vocational Skill’s Training (VST) Programme, in providing training in the usage of the mill, repair as well as the assembly of the machinery.
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