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Environmental support in the old Meheba settlement, Zambia

Environmental support in the old Meheba settlement, Zambia

1 January 2001

The project had four objectives:

Experimentation and promotion of agroforestry

More than 16,000 seedlings have been raised in the Association to Aid Refugees (AAR's) nurseries, the majority of which have been distributed and planted in refugee plots. Due to the interest in growing fruit trees, 1,500 have been produced and distributed.

Five experimental plots of 4,500m2 each have been established, the objective being to demonstrate agroforestry techniques such as alley cropping and to measure the impacts of certain nitrogen-fixing trees on soil conditions and crop production. Initial results demonstrate much higher yields from experimental maize crops grown on these plots although it will be several years before the full impact of this system is stabilised.

An important aspect of this activity has been to demonstrate new techniques and educate refugees on agroforestry. During the project, about 2,500 refugees visited the experimental farm and received explanation on the benefits of agroforestry.

Almost 60 communities, comprising 400 families, received assistance with creating small community nurseries. To encourage families to care for distributed seeds, additional, ready-to-plant seedlings were also provided to those communities who achieved the best results. Average success rate of the seedlings was 53 per cent. One of the reasons for this low result was water shortage: initially water was freely available, but as the water level dropped, refugees had to collect water from wells further away. Corrective measures were introduced by the project, which included the provision of water containers and improved protection of plants against livestock and chickens. Assistance was also provided with compost-making to improve soil conditions.


More than 4,500 tree seedlings were produced from the AAR nursery. Five communities that had shown interest in afforestation, in addition to other public sites vulnerable to erosion, were selected for the experiment. Around 2,500 seedlings were planted in these communities. Five nurseries were created with 10 volunteers per community participating in the project.

Introduction and promotion of fuel-efficient stoves and kitchen gardens in schools

Sixteen stove-making instructors were trained to organise demonstrations and raise awareness of the benefits of using fuel-efficient stoves. Demonstration centres were created at schools and clinics. A total of 429 stoves were made in 72 communities. Although refugees were initially very interested in this system, adoption of stoves did not spread, with around half of the community sensitised adopting the stoves.

Assistance to environmental

Eco-clubs were created in three primary schools in Meheba. The raising of trees and the study of their growth, as well as people's impact on the environment, have been integrated into the science curriculum by the teachers.

Although the activities were implemented as planned, the impact of the project is limited. One of the reasons for this has been that the Meheba refugees have always shown resistance to changing their habits and are not sensitive to environmental issues. This was aggravated by the fact that the refugees hope to repatriate in 1998 and therefore concentrated their efforts on raising cash, with little concern displayed for environmental sustainability. There is a need for cost-effectiveness to re-orient environmental activities to maximise impacts through more direct preservation and rehabilitation activities such as a larger reforestation programme (in which private nurseries could be established by refugees as a means of raising income) and an environmental education programme using staff resources employed in other sectors - agriculture, education, community services. These approaches are currently being examined.