Eastern Africa: Tackling environmental challenges in refugee camps

Eastern Africa hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees whose survival is dependent on humanitarian aid and nature. Often cramped together on fragile land, the impact of high concentration of people on natural resources is considerable. While UNHCR provides food – nature provides firewood for the refugees to be able to cook their food.

Fuelwood Truck, Dadaab Refugee Camp, Kenya

In Kenya’s Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in Eastern Africa, the depletion of forest resources as a result of the large numbers of refugees has fuelled and can fuel conflicts between refugees and the local, mostly pastoralist, communities. Shelter material provided to new Somali arrivals is hardly enough and refugees often have to travel for days to cut trees for additional building material. Recognizing the need to address the problem, UNHCR - the UN Refugee Agency - is working with Partners throughout Eastern Africa to restore the environment and find sustainable solutions. However, environment falls outside the immediate humanitarian mandate and the scale of activities is small compared to the impact.

IUCN together with UNHCR recently brought together 40 participants from eastern Africa to discuss the challenges and strategies to ensure sustainable restoration of the environment in refugee, IDP and returnee areas.

“Let us not forget what we have learned during the past four days’ workshop. We assure you that we are going to do something. We are all burning to spread our wings and to make a case for environmental conservation,” said Siyad Shide, Programme Manager GTZ Kakuma.

Challenges range from limited conservation and restoration resources and lack of environmental field officers to mobilizing the communities to take greater ownership and initiative in environmental activities.

IUCN has been piloting in Sudan, Uganda and Kenya Community Environmental Management Planning together with UNHCR and Implementing Partners as a step to enhancing the sustainability of environmental activities in refugee and IDP hosting areas. Giving the communities (refugees and host communities) together with the local authorities a say in the planning and implementation of environmental activities will enhance their ownership of conservation initiatives. At the same time, it ensures that activities are based on their needs.

For more information, please contact:

  • Caterina Wolfangel, Programme Officer Drylands, IUCN ESARO, Email: Caterina.Wolfangel@iucn.org, Tel: +254 20 890605/-12
  • Grace Chepkwony, Communications Officer, IUCN ESARO, Email: Grace.Chepkwony@iucn.org, Tel: +254 20 890605/-12
East and Southern Africa
Go to top