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Environmental support activities, Ethiopia

Environmental support activities, Ethiopia

1 January 2001

Financial support to the Regional Liaison Office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is helping build the foundation for the first comprehensive environmental programme related to refugees in Ethiopia.

The main components of UNHCR's environment support programme include:

  • Environmental protection pilot project in the eastern camps: establishing tree nurseries and plantations

Environmental rehabilitation and conservation activities at Kebribeyah and Hartisheik have shown encouraging prospects, although given the scale of environmental problems in eastern Ethiopia, the immediate local impact of these pilot projects will be limited. They will, however, serve as useful demonstration projects which could be replicated elsewhere in Ethiopia. At Kebribeyah, a four hectare plantation has been rehabilitated and planted with different species of tree seedlings. Survival rate is more than 90 per cent. Another hectare of land has also been prepared, 2,500 micro basins established and more than 1,000 seedlings planted. A small, temporary nursery has been established at Hartisheik refugee camp and 25,000 tree seedlings of different species have been produced. Preparations for the permanent location, near the Haffir dam, are underway. A total of 12,400 micro basins have been prepared of which 11,200 have been planted with tree seedlings. Survival rate is estimated at 80 per cent.

  • Environmental education

This initiative will promote the teaching of sound environmental principles and practices in the primary schools of refugee camps, and in local schools immediately surrounding the camps and settlements. A consultancy contract has been signed with the Centre for Human Environment and the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs. Initial work involved modifying environmental education kits produced in Kenya to produce pupil booklets and teacher's guides applicable to refugee areas of east and western Ethiopia. Field visits have been undertaken to study the educational system in schools, become better acquainted with the culture and traditions of the refugees and host communities, and to identify local environmental problems. Widescale discussions have been held on key environmental problems and the issues which need to be included in education materials.

  • Solar cooking pilot project at Aisha Refugee Camp

Natural vegetation has virtually been eliminated around the Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia. Obtaining fuelwood has become a major concern, making long walks and overnighting away from home necessary. A solar cooker project has therefore been piloted in Aisha. The full impact of this project has not yet been realised as technical difficulties have arisen with the current cookers.

  • Environmental impact assessment in and around refugee settlements in western Ethiopia

In association with the Ethiopian Mapping Authority, data collection and interpretation of maps, satellite images and other sources has begun around the western refugee camps of Bonga, Dimma, Fugnido and Sherkole. Preliminary data analysis is underway. The results from this continuing study will, in time, enable close monitoring of environmental changes within the region.

  • Geographical information system database of all UNHCR interventions in Ethiopia

Two field missions have been undertaken by a multidiscipliniary team to collect data on population, rainfall, vegetation cover, water, infrastructure, livestock, forestry and agriculture in four zones where refugees and returnees are concentrated. Collected data are stored on a central database in Addis Ababa. Information such as this will be essential for future project and programme monitoring in refugees affected areas in Ethiopia.

  • Operational support, including the hiring of an Environmental Planner.

An Environmental Planner has been recruited to assist with the assessment, planning, implementation, supervision and monitoring of environmental activities in the eastern camps and western settlements. This appointment has been welcomed by the office of the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs and other government offices. Since his appointment, the Environmental Planner has undertaken many mission to the camps and settlements, holding talks with local communities and generally helping to consolidate actions being taken in support of the environment.