• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

UNHCR teaches Darfur IDPs to help themselves and environment

News Stories, 7 August 2007

© UNHCR/H.Caux
After working in a nearby factory, Zahia, 15, collects wood for her family. The high number of internally displaced in Darfur has damaged an already degraded environment.

KHARTOUM, Sudan, August 7 (UNHCR) The UN refugee agency is working with internally displaced Sudanese to rehabilitate the environmental degradation that has been both a cause and a consequence of the Darfur conflict.

Earlier this year, UNHCR through its implementing partner INTERSOS started a community-based environmental rehabilitation project in three localities in West Darfur: Forobaranga, a small town bordering Chad, in Garsila and in Um Kher village.

The three nurseries aim to improve fruit and vegetable production, address deforestation through growing forest trees and provide local farmers, many of them women and youths, with training on topics like land management, water harvesting, pest control, tree management, intercropping, cash crop management, seed production and storage.

"This is for once good news from Darfur. We are pleased to see local villagers and IDPs alike embark on activities that not only help restore the damaged environment but also provide them with skills to enhance their self-sufficiency in the future," said Chrysantus Ache, UNHCR Representative in Sudan.

The Darfur conflict, often simplified in the public debate, is complex. Among several causes are tensions over access to land, water and resources. Ironically, the massive displacement of Darfurians over the past three years has worsened that already precarious environmental condition.

With internally displaced people (IDPs) moving close to urban centres and into camps there are two million people displaced inside Darfur deforestation around camps and towns has grown rapidly. Everyday, IDPs and local communities go further into the desert to collect firewood and livestock cover greater distances to find grass.

Apart from managerial skills, the participants learn differences in growing mango, banana, citrus, papaya, guava, millet, sorghum, tomato, onion, garlic, chickpeas, beans, groundnuts, eggplant, potato and sweet potato. Weekly training follows the natural cycle of the plants: sowing, germination, growth, transplanting and creation of new seeds.

So far, over 200 participants, mostly women and youth, have enrolled in the three localities. Ninety-minute training sessions are held four days a week. In Garsila, UNHCR plans future training in youth centres in IDP camps outside the village to attract more internally displaced youth.

Among the forest trees are acacia 120,000 are being grown already as well as tamarind, albizia, cassia fustula and other trees typical of the region. Since the project started in March 2007, the sowing of seeds has been completed and plants are growing well.

Prior to deciding where to carry out the programme, an environmental specialist supported by two local agronomists conducted an assessment of the soil and conditions and decided, along with local authorities and the villagers who embraced the idea, how to make the best out of the project.

The nursery was conceived to obtain best results from all species of plants. One part of the nursery is used as an incubator for seeds put in plastic bags and irrigated by special canals carrying fresh well water. The other part of the structure is designed to host young plants needing more sunlight and less humidity. Once the young plants are strong enough, they are distributed to the farmers.

Trees will be planted in the three localities in October near schools, wells, in selected public spaces and close to houses.

One of the many positive side-effects of the project is that the training of women and youths with help them become self-sufficient in an increasingly difficult environment. The training is open to internally displaced people and local villagers alike.

Recently the project's participants in Um Kher and Garsila even succeeding in growing the seemingly impossible: For the first time, pineapples usually at home in humid, tropical areas started to blossom in the desert of West Darfur.

By Annette Rehrl in Khartoum, Sudan




UNHCR country pages


How UNHCR and partners seek to minimize the environmental impact of refugee operations.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

Ahead of South Sudan's landmark January 9, 2011 referendum on independence, tens of thousands of southern Sudanese in the North packed their belongings and made the long trek south. UNHCR set up way stations at key points along the route to provide food and shelter to the travellers during their arduous journey. Several reports of rapes and attacks on travellers reinforced the need for these reception centres, where women, children and people living with disabilities can spend the night. UNHCR has made contingency plans in the event of mass displacement after the vote, including the stockpiling of shelter and basic provisions for up to 50,000 people.

Southerners on the move before Sudanese vote

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

The signing of a peace agreement between the Sudanese government and the army of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement on 9 January, 2005, ended 21 years of civil war and signaled a new era for southern Sudan. For some 4.5 million uprooted Sudanese – 500,000 refugees and 4 million internally displaced people – it means a chance to finally return home.

In preparation, UNHCR and partner agencies have undertaken, in various areas of South Sudan, the enormous task of starting to build some basic infrastructure and services which either were destroyed during the war or simply had never existed. Alongside other UN agencies and NGOs, UNHCR is also putting into place a wide range of programmes to help returnees re-establish their lives.

These programs include road construction, the building of schools and health facilities, as well as developing small income generation programmes to promote self-reliance.

South Sudan: Preparing for Long-Awaited Returns

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety Play video

South Sudan: A Long Walk in Search of Safety

Years of fighting between Sudan and rebel forces have sent more than 240,000 people fleeing to neighbouring South Sudan, a country embroiled in its own conflict. After weeks on foot, Amal Bakith and her five children are settling in at Ajoung Thok refugee camp where they receive food, shelter, access to education and land.
UNHCR: Protection Speech at ExComPlay video

UNHCR: Protection Speech at ExCom

UNHCR's Head of News Adrian Edwards interviews Volker Türk, the agency's protection chief, about his address to UNHCR's governing Executive Committee on the global protection environment.
South Sudan: Helping the Most VulnerablePlay video

South Sudan: Helping the Most Vulnerable

UNHCR comes to the assistance of older, disabled and sickly Sudanese refugees arriving in Yusuf Batil Camp.