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Refugees in Cameroon have turned a desert camp into a thriving forest

Refugees in Cameroon started helping build a green wall to stop the desert.
Refugees in Cameroon started helping build a green wall to stop the desert. Copyright  © UNHCR
Copyright  © UNHCR
By Doloresz Katanich with Reuters
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Planting thousands of trees is providing jobs, food, medicine and more water in the future for thousands of people.


An ambitious reforestation project, carried out by refugees in Minawao, Cameroon, has turned an extensive area of desert into forest - and changed people's lives.

The region, already badly affected by climate change, has gradually become home to nearly 70,000 refugees since 2014. They have fled violence linked to militant group Boko Haram in neighbouring Nigeria. The new arrivals accelerated the desertification process, cutting down the few surrounding trees to support themselves.

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) launched a reforestation programme in 2018.

In order to protect the world’s displaced, we must do more to protect the environment. Protecting the environment provides better protection for people.
Andrew Harper
UNHCR’s Special Advisor on Climate Action

Refugees and local communities received training on how to give seedlings the best chance of survival in the harsh environment. The so-called "cocoon technology", developed by Land Life Company involves burying a doughnut-shaped water tank made from recycled cartons. This surrounds the plant’s roots and feeds it.

To date, volunteers in the refugee camp have given new life to more than 100 hectares (250 football fields) of severely degraded land.

"Minawao has become a place that is green all over and there are a lot of benefits to that. We have shade from the sun, the soil has improved and the trees attract water", says one of the volunteers Lydia Youcoubou.

This project is contributing to the Great Green Wall, an African-led initiative that aims to grow an 8,000-kilometre continent-wide barrier to stop the ongoing desertification of the Sahel, a territory on the border of the Sahara and the Sudanian savanna.

Watch the video above to see how the newly planted forest changed life in this refugee camp.

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