Refugees in Cameroon turned a desert camp into a thriving forest
An ambitious reforestation project, led by refugees in Minawao, Cameroon, turned a vast desert area into forest – and changed people’s lives.
The region, already hard hit by climate change, has gradually sheltered nearly 70,000 refugees since 2014. They fled violence linked to the militant group Boko Haram in neighboring Nigeria. The new arrivals have accelerated the process of desertification, cutting down the few surrounding trees to support themselves.
The United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) launched a reforestation program in 2018.
Refugees and local communities were trained on how to give the seedlings the best chance of survival in a hostile environment. The so-called “cocoon” technology, developed by Land Life Company, involves burying a donut-shaped water tank made from recycled cardboard. This surrounds the roots of the plant and nourishes it.
To date, volunteers at the refugee camp have revived more than 100 hectares (250 football pitches) of severely degraded land.
“Minawao has become a very green place and there are a lot of advantages to that. We have shade from the sun, the soil has improved and the trees are attracting water, ”explains one of the volunteers Lydia Youcoubou.
This project contributes to the Great Green Wall, an African-led initiative that aims to extend an 8,000 kilometer continent-wide barrier to stop the ongoing desertification of the Sahel, a territory bordering the Sahara and the Sudanese savannah.
Watch the video above to see how the newly planted forest has changed life in this refugee camp.