It started with a crisis. Refugees from S Sudan needed to fell trees to build homes, farm and cook. But we knew they could also grow trees. We recruited foresters and refugee youth, set up a nursery, and sought to understand needs. Three years and 450,000 trees later, we are happy to report that homes we work with have shade, poles, fruit, fuel to hand, more fertile soil and pollinators, and suffer less from weather extremes. Priorities now include natural regeneration of trees and scaling up.
Forest and trees have long been under strain in NW Uganda. But this has been heightened by the arrival of one million South Sudanese refugees. The refugees are hardworking people as are the nationals. But support is needed for those who must build new lives, the host population, and the ecosystems they all depend upon. Trees supply essentials like firewood. But demand for charcoal in towns is driving deforestation: dwindling natural resources and the climate crisis are making life precarious.
Agroforestry, the integration of trees with crops and livestock, is hugely useful in a refugee setting - increasing soil fertility and ability to hold water; improving the microclimate; and providing fodder, fruit, oil, firewood, poles and more. By bringing trees closer to them, this project solves problem of scarcity of the natural resources that refugees and local people depend upon. This safeguards human well being and prevents devastating environmental degradation that can worsen the crisis.
One long term impact can be change to the standard refugee response, which though slowly changing still tends to be that attention to the environment can wait until refugees go home. Today displacement lasts on average 20 years and, with climate crisis, a healthy environment is ever more critical for the well being of refugees. Humanitarian action needs to put trees as a nature-based solution at the centre to ensure essential services/goods. The project is already receiving attention as a model.
This project has provided additional documentation in a PDF file (projdoc.pdf).
The project at six months: 140,000 trees planted
Background to the project in The Guardian
Study on which trees refugees wanted and for what