UN refugee agency expands Zambian development through integration programme

UN refugee agency expands Zambian development through integration programme

Refugees process maize at Mayukwayukwa camp
After more than doubling food production by integrated teams of refugees and their hosts in Zambia’s Western province, the United Nations refugee agency said today that it is expanding the integration programme to the North-Western province of the landlocked southern African country.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that in support of the Government-led “Zambia Initiative” it recently held discussions with provincial administrators, traditional chiefs, Government technical employees, staff members from several UN agencies, as well as refugees in North-Western province’s capital, Solwezi.

To get the programme going, UNHCR has provided $380,000 for quick impact projects (QIPs) and would play a catalytic role in sensitizing donors about the needs of both refugee-hosting and refugee communities.

“At UNHCR, we recognize voluntary repatriation as the best durable solution for refugees and development through local integration (DLI) as an alternative in cases where they can’t go home,” the refugee agency’s regional representative, Ahmed Said Farah, said.

Zambia currently hosts 175,000 refugees, most of them from Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi.

Western province is the poorest area in Zambia, but has the largest number of refugees. With 120,000 refugees and local hosts there benefiting from small loans, improved seeds and agricultural extension services in 2003-2004, successes included boosting crop productivity to 3.5 tons per hectare from 1.5 tons, UNHCR said.

The farmers not only produced enough food for their use, but sold 564 tons to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and invested the proceeds in further maize cultivation, changing themselves from aid recipients into food suppliers, it said.

Some 1,200 women cattle owners were trained in producing butter and cheese, health clinics and laboratories were set up, with motorcycles and ambulances for health service delivery, while 11 classrooms, a girls’ hostel and a teachers’ residence were built with locally produced bricks.

Dominic Minyoi, the initiative’s national coordinator, said that because of the experience in Western province, government officials and members of Parliament had requested similar projects in other refugee-hosting areas and he planned to use the programme’s $16 million budget to establish them.