Tongogara tree planting: Youth, women pillars of a better future


ADVANCED English Dictionary describes focus as “concentration of attention or energy on something.”

In other terms, focus is when one is concentrating on something with the intent to achieve well laid (good) results.

Focus as a term can be applied in different scenarios of life where athletic people apply it on winning competitions, the clergy putting focus on getting salvation. Business personnel’s can also put focus on profits as teachers put it on the higher pass rate of learners. The list is endless.

Some of the participants during the tree planting event at Tongogara Refugee Camp

In this era of climate change, natural disasters are destroying lives and livelihoods. Droughts, floods, heat waves and cyclones bring no joy to the survival of the human species.

Africa has been on the receiving end of natural disasters which are induced by climate change. Special mention goes to tropical cyclones which are hitting the continent almost every year.

In Zimbabwe, the turn of the millennium saw the coming of Tropical Cyclone Eline in the year 2000. It hit the south-eastern part of the country in February 2000 and killed 136 people. Tropical Cyclone Japhet of March 2003 affected Zambezi Valley and killed seven people.

RCCA Co-Assistant Team Leader Trust Bvaranga (left)

Other tropical cyclones that affected Zimbabwe include Dineo in 2017, Idai in 2019, Chalane in 2020, Eloise in 2022 and Freddy in 2023.

It was Tropical Cyclone Idai of March 2019 that broke a record of killing more than 250 people and leaving thousands others injured and homeless. Some of the victims of Idai are still missing.

RCCA Team Leader Gawaar Juich

Any survivor of such catastrophes would never want to see them come again, whether at a small or large scale.

Fortunate are those who once lived before the year 2000 where the issue of climate change was not the order of the day. They can compare and contrast our situation today. They can explain better that these floods, heat waves, cyclones, droughts are not fashion and people should not take pride in them.

With that in mind, some youth at Tongogara Refugee Camp in Chipinge, Zimbabwe are not watching the situation continue unabated.

These youth and women are members of Refugee Child’s Coalition for Climate Action (RCCA), a refugee youth-led project that facilitates a Child-Youth participation approach to climate and environmental action at Tongogara Refugee Camp. Its projects include re-greening, waste management and environment awareness, among others.

On Saturday, April 8 2023, the youth and women converged at the Information Centre where they started a phase of massive re-greening exercise whose target is putting into the ground more than 1000 trees in the next few months.

Evaristo, Maria and Deluxe

It was encouraging to see kids such as six year olds Maria and Deluxe as well as twelve year old Evaristo braving the Lowveld heat actively planting trees.

Of note among the youthful women were two university students, Purity Chikoo and Tendai Tanyanyiwa, who are studying social development and are attached to the Ministry of Women Affairs, Community, Small and Medium Enterprises Development in Chipinge.

Tendai Tanyanyiwa and Purity Chikoo

Despite their studies workload which is tied upon their necks, they voluntarily spared time to be involving in the life saving initiative. It was the words of their district officer, Mrs Ivy Chitambo, which appreciated their focus. “We support youth who are proactive in community development activities,” she said.

Tongogara Refugee Camp Administrator, Mr Johanne Mhlanga commented, “It is so appreciative to see that such young women value the need to develop the community and that they prioritise the need of people of concerns residing in the camp. That positive sense of co-existence between host communities and refugees is modest,” he said.

RCCA Co-Assistant Team Leader, Celyne Niyanogira (centre)

RCCA Co-Assistant Team Leader, Celyne Niyanogira was impressed with how the refugee community is supporting climate action.

“We are humbled by the number of people, especially youth and women, who are coming to plant trees in the camp during our programs. Their effort shall not go in vain. The more trees we are planting, the more the effects of climate change we are reversing,” she said.

A member of RCCA, Mado Sengere, pressumed that the future is bright for the camp through their climate change in mitigation.

“The camp and host communities require these trees so that we experience less effects of climate change. I am already visualising a greener and more beautiful Tongogara Refugee Camp decorated by our trees,” she said.

When the world is battling with youth who are indulging in drugs and harmful substances, it is so encouraging to see that some young souls are being positive in saving mother earth. Truly, these focused youth and women are pillars of a better future.

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