Plant trees to benefit refugees and host communities, urges UN
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has called for more trees to be planted in countries and areas that are home to large numbers of refugees.
The recommendation is based on refugee’s high level of dependency on fire wood for cooking and heating their homes, approximately 80% of refugees depend on fire wood. This demand can become a major cause of deforestation in areas surrounding refugee settlements and a source of conflict.
Levels of displacement have reached unprecedented levels with 69 million people having been displaced due to war or persecution.
Andrea Dekrout, an environmental expert with UNHCR noted:
‘Basically we need more energy sources…in certain cases, forestry can meet that end’
In July this year humanitarian agencies, refugee hosting countries and private sector companies are planning to sign an agreement committing to providing all displaced people with access to sustainable energy by 2030.
The UNHCR and FAO jointly announced advice to governments and humanitarians to plant trees for energy, food and fodder in areas hosting refugees.
Andrea Dekrout added:
"It seems like a simple thing to plant a tree…but it has to be the right kind of tree, in the right place and planted the right way. It has to first survive and later, produce."
The advice is a priority for Uganda and Bangladesh which in total are supporting around 2 million refugees. The majority of Uganda’s refugees have fled South Sudan and Bangladesh is home to a large number of the Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar.
For example, in Uganda’s Bidibidi refugee camp each household uses 20kg of wood each day. Unless alternative fuel sources are found estimates suggest all surrounding trees will be felled in the next 3 years.
Deforestation will lead to soil degradation and water shortages which could affect the livelihoods of local farmers and force more people to leave their homes.
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