Oct 20, 2020

A More Sustainable Refugee Camp is Possible

Refugee in their garden, with trees
Refugee in their garden, with trees

Hi friends,

Greetings from Northern Uganda, currenrtly home to over 1 million refugees from South Sudan. When refugee influxes happen, they happen fast, and organizations' priorities are focused on basic needs: registration, shelter, food and medicine. But with sharp influx of population levels and concentrations we also see rapid degradation of natural ecosystems, deforestation and a shift in forest resource management. 

If you talk to any of these refugees, they'll be the first to say that they want to help to protect the environment, because they understand intimately that their livelihood depends upon it. But with relief organizations only factoring in basic needs and doing the necessary triage that occurs with a refugee crisis, issues of sustainability aren't adequately addressed. That's where we come in. 

In 2017 we saw firsthand this need. We saw refugees trying to establish their new lives in these refugee camps, and the way that their livelihood–trees for firewood and trees for construction and cleared land for agricultural cultivation–led to the rapid decline of tree cover. We saw a challenge and a solution. 

Today, we work collaboratively with refugee communities to better manage their forest resources. We plant trees with them, in strategic ways, to both mitigate further forest loss while also helping them to better meet their own needs, and lead more thriving and resilient lives. 

To date, we've planted nearly 200,000 trees with 120,000 refugees, and have begun a major rollout of getting more fuel-efficient cookstoves to refugee households to further conserve the forest that surrounds them. 

And we're not stopping. Right now, we're in the process of working on some pretty neat plans to really scale our work through collaborating with more organizaitons, more partners, and more refugees. We are the proof that sustainability can be factored into refugee service delivery, and we plan to continue to build sustainability into the lives of refugees. 

But, to do this work, we need the support of people like you. Thank you for believing in us and financially giving to our cause. Because of it, you are helping to ensure that refugee families have access to sustainable energy sources and nutrition, while also halting the effects of climate change and desertification in its tracks. 

We'll hope you'll continue supporting us. 

Thanks,

the WildFF team

Jul 1, 2020

In a drastically changed world, the work continues

NSP staff with farmers and trees planted
NSP staff with farmers and trees planted

Our world seems unhinged these days. The problems that plague our societies are on spotlight, as borders and businesses and ‘normal life’ continue to close down from a pandemic that swept the world away overnight. We’re all pivoting to find a new normal, whether it be our daily routines, our work life, with our family and how we stay connected to friends. 

This pandemic has, in some way, brought us together as a global community. Whether in a bustling city in the US or a village in northern Uganda, we’re all facing a similar reality: how do we keep our families safe and our children fed? How do we protect our grandmothers from a virus that may disproportionately affect them? 

But even in a drastically changed world, the work continues. We’ve been asked to look at what is essential. The Native Seeds Project has always believed that our work is essential. We’ve always looked to the future: how will we ensure the longevity of soil fertility to make sure communities can continue to grow their own food, and have abundant harvests? How do we bring back tree cover to ensure microclimates that boost crop productivity and ensure long-term, sustainable food security amidst growing climate change concerns? 

We’re happy to say that even in the midst of a global pandemic, our resolve in the importance of our work remains unchanged. We are essential. Our work is essential. As people lose jobs and the economic fallout of the pandemic becomes more certain the world over, our commitment to food security and restored forests with ample biodiversity has never seemed more important. 

So, even in a drastically changed world, the work continues. Uganda has enforced a very strict lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, namely because the government understood that their healthcare system does not have the capacity to deal with a pandemic. That lockdown meant the temporary halting of our activities, but as the lockdown eases up, our colleagues are slowly getting back to work. 

We work closely with 1,000 farmers to restore tree cover and to diversify farming systems, all to make their croplands more resilient and more abundant. We established the first native tree nursery in the region, and continue to be a beacon of native tree restoration in the region. When we first started our work, people raised their eyebrows at us: why native tree species? What do they do? Five years later, we have organizations and even local government departments coming to us for recommendations on their own native tree restoration and agroforestry projects. Why? Because native tree cover is essential to healthy ecosystems. And healthy ecosystems are essential to food security. And food security is essential to the livelihood and the health of local communities. For today’s generation and tomorrow’s. 

We know there’s a lot of problems in the world right now. It can be hard to sift through which ones most need our support. Sometimes all we can do is put a bandaid on a problem rather than finding the surgeon that can remediate the root issue. We want to let you know that in this metaphor, our project is a well-trained surgeon. We don’t put bandaids on the problem of food insecurity by running food banks or handing out GMO seeds. We look at the entire system–for us, the ecosystem–to see how we can address the root cause of ecosystem loss and inconsistent rain fall–and do the surgery necessary to restore the land back to its optimal functioning. For the human communities that live on it, and the biological communities that comprise it. 

This is how we change the world for the better. We hope you’ll continue to support our work, as we continue to plant trees to restore forests and to restore communities’ holistic livelihood. Our Ugandan farmers have never needed your help more than they do right now. 

From our land to yours,

The Native Seeds Project team

Adding trees to croplands
Adding trees to croplands
working with community members
working with community members
Jun 18, 2020

Updates from Palorinya Refugee Settlement

Refugees receiving trainings
Refugees receiving trainings

Hello supporters,

Greetings to you and your family from Palorinya Refugee Settlement in Northern Uganda. We, like you, are feeling the effects of a drastically changed world over the past few months, from a virus that has reminded us that we are far more connected than we previously took notice of. 

Speaking of connection, while the virus has halted us in many ways, it has also propelled us into further action. From that place, I'd like to remind you of the impact we have had so far with the many South Sudanese refugees we have worked with in increasing food security and decreasing deforestation in and around their new home in Northern Uganda. 

In 2019, we planted over 92,000 moringa, fruit and timber tree seedlings in collaboration with 120,000 refugees. In addition to these plantings, refugees received training on tree seedling care and management as well as the multiple uses of the seedling types distributed. But our work didn't stop there.

We trained over 148 artisans on how to build Rocket Lorena stoves, a type of cookstove that drastically decreases the need for firewood while also decreasing smoke levels that can be harmful to human health. Those 148 artisans, all refugees, received ongoing payment for their work to construct 2,000 cookstoves for 2,000 refugee families, effectively making these families' ecological footprint drastically lower while also protecting the health of the individuals that cook family meals, most of whom are women and children. 

As 2019 turned into 2020, we prepped for another seedling distribution, and have to date raised an additional 54,000 tree seedlings to be distributed to more refugees. Those seedlings are currently awaiting patiently in the nursery to be distributed, safely and sanitarily, to more refugees wanting to restore their soil, green their land, and increase their food security. Given the current COVID situation in Uganda, we hope we will begin seedling distribution in the coming weeks or months. 

If there is anything that COVID has taught us, is that while some things in life can be halted, others remain uncancelled. Things like family, community, growing your own food and tending to your own land. That's what we've been busy doing here at WildFF, and it's what all of the refugees we work with have been doing in their respective homes. 

We know there's a lot going on in the world right now, and a whole lot of different causes you can support. But we urge you to remember how at risk our refugee populations in the world are, not just of COVID, but of radically changed climate patterns that continue to exert their power over our world. Please continue to support this work: together, we can change the way that refugee service delivery is implemented, and bring agency and the ability to support oneself through the gifts that nature provides back into the hands of refugees. 

 

All the best,

the WildFF team

Refugee mother with her new eco-cookstove
Refugee mother with her new eco-cookstove
Fruit tree planting in 2018, steadily growing!
Fruit tree planting in 2018, steadily growing!
1 year-old moringa amidst a cassava garden
1 year-old moringa amidst a cassava garden
 
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