Food & Agriculture, TerraViva United Nations

From Seedling to Shade: Planting Trees in South Sudan’s Displacement Sites

Helping improve internally displaced people’s living conditions

Koang Pech, an internally displaced person and gardener living and working in Bentiu, South Sudan. Credit: Amanda Nero/IOM 2017

JUBA, South Sudan, Jan 15 2018 (IOM) - With sweltering heat — temperatures often over 40 degrees Celsius — and either extreme humidity or dust, life in the UN protection of civilians (PoC) site in Bentiu, South Sudan, is harsh by any measure. Bentiu hosts the largest PoC site in the country, with a population of more than 112,000 people, many of whom have been seeking protection in the site since the conflict erupted in December 2013.

Aerial view of Bentiu PoC. Credit: IOM/Brendan Bannon

While surrounded by trees and swamps, the 1.6 million square metres of land that make up the site are bare out of necessity. With the congestion and large population tree cover is hard to find as the need for space for shelters, health clinics and other basic infrastructure has led to deforestation. And in turn, the lack of trees has then led to increased wind speeds and further agitation of dust during the dry season.

Seedlings in the tree nursery. Credit: Amanda Nero/IOM 2017

As part of an effort to improve living conditions for the displaced population in Bentiu and take responsibility for leaving behind a healthy environment, IOM is implementing a small pilot project to develop a tree nursery in the site. Under the project, supported by the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) and the European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), IOM has produced 1,000 tree seedlings and saplings and already distributed over 300 to the community.

Koang watering the seedling in the the tree nursery. Credit: Amanda Nero/IOM 2017

Koang Pech, who lives in the displacement site, is the gardener working on the project:
“We are cultivating local trees such as mango, guava, neem, dinkipesha, ban, keer, meth, lemon, bannes, powpow, dhuras, chokas, etc. Some of them can reach up to 25 metres. We are distributing baby trees to public facilities such as schools, clinics and communication centers. I am teaching people how to plant them, how to make the hole, how to plant it, how often to water it and so on…In the nursery, we first plant the seeds in discarded food bags with cow dung until they are ready for real soil.”

The initial distribution focuses on communal spaces; in the future, the tree nursery will integrate training on growing and planting to encourage participation at the household level.
“Trees near clinics and schools will help with the heat and provide shade when the sun is high up. When the tree is big enough, kids can have classes outside under its shade. People will be happy,” Koang explains. “When the baby trees grow, they will give to the community relief from the heat, shade to rest and a place to meet friends. Some trees will give them fruits like guava and mango, and direction. You know, it is easier to find your way around when you recognize a tree, you can see it from far away. When there are enough trees, they will attract the rain, this is how nature works.”

Koang holds a new seedling. Credit: Amanda Nero/IOM 2017

The 112,000 people living in the Bentiu PoC site are among the 1.9 million South Sudanese displaced within the borders of South Sudan — forced from their homes since the conflict erupted in 2013. Humanitarian conditions continue to worsen across the country, with an estimated 7 million people in need of assistance this year due to conflict, displacement, food insecurity, a deteriorating economy and limited access to basic services.

The Bentiu tree nursery. Credit: Amanda Nero/IOM 2017

Bentiu PoC site due to concerns for their personal protection, IOM camp management remains dedicated to ensuring dignified living conditions at the site until individuals feel it is safe enough to return home. Though small, this project is helping return a sense of normalcy and relief to lives greatly disrupted.

Koang re-uses food bags for planting the trees. Credit: Amanda Nero/IOM 2017



This story was posted by Ashley McLaughlin the IOM Communications Officer based in South Sudan.

 
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