ICRC helps prison projects

The International Committee of the Red Cross has partnered with Zimbabwe Prison Services to improve food production on prison farms and rehabilitate critical infrastructure within prisons.

A ZPS officer inspects vegetables in the solar drying unit.
A ZPS officer inspects vegetables in the solar drying unit.

ICRC spokesperson Tendayi Sengwe said the focus of support had initially been a therapeutic feeding programme and direct food assistance to supplement the diet of over 8,000 inmates in 17 prisons run by ZPS. In an exclusive interview, Sengwe said the ICRC began to gradually reduce direct food assistance in February 2011 after a constant joint monitoring of the process.

The committee has been monitoring the treatment and conditions of detention in Zimbabwe since April 2009 following an invitation from the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs and the government’s acceptance of the ICRC’s standards for prisons worldwide.

“When we began our collaboration with ZPS, our goal was to assist them to cope with the difficult humanitarian situation they faced in 2008 to 2009 and improve the welfare of inmates”.

“Today we have been able to move past that challenging period and are now focused on identifying ways in which the impact of what we have been able to jointly achieve can be sustained,” added Sengwe.

The ICRC supported the cultivation of over 200 hectares of legumes at prison farms during the 2012-2013 agricultural season through the provision of seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. “Legumes (sugar beans, cow peas, groundnuts) are an essential part of inmates’ daily diets. Growing and processing them on prison farms enables the ZPS to reduce the amount of money they need to spend on purchasing them on the open market,” he said.

To address the challenge of making vegetables available throughout the year, they have built and installed solar drying structures at a number of prisons where vegetables are grown to enable prison officers to preserve crops for times when they are not available.

Kitchen facilities in six prisons housing 2,000 inmates have been upgraded to help improve the speed at which daily meals could be cooked for inmates.

“We also rehabilitated water supply systems and sanitation facilities used by over 4,500 inmates,” added Sengwe.

Prisons Commissioner General, Paradzai Zimondi, recently hosted a stakeholder’s round table discussion where he invited nongovernmental organisations to partner the corrective institution in revamping income-generating projects that were lying idle.

“If well capacitated, ZPS has the potential to sustain its mandate to provide quality rehabilitation services to inmates. We have workshops, farms and various programmes that can generate revenue for most of our activities,” he said.

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  1. Dave Sassman

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