ROME, Feb 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A million trees
are to be planted in Ethiopia to fight deforestation around
camps hosting hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees
who rely almost entirely on wood for fuel, a United Nations
agency said on Wednesday.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the
trees would be planted on 150 hectares of land in Ethiopia's
western Gambella region to meet the growing refugee population's
demand for energy.
Almost 300,000 people, mostly women and children, have found
shelter in Ethiopia since conflict erupted in South Sudan in
Fires used by the refugees for cooking are fuelled almost
entirely by chopped wood, putting considerable pressure on local
forests, FAO energy and forestry expert Arturo Gianvenuti said.
"Imagine tens of thousands of people - the population of a
small city - who suddenly arrive in a location and start using
forest resources," Gianvenuti told the Thomson Reuters
Foundation in an interview. "The impact is visible".
The depletion of forests risks creating tensions with local
communities and disrupting the ecosystem, as trees stabilize the
climate, regulate water flows and provide shelter to numerous
animal species, according to the FAO.
It also exposes refugee women to the risk of sexual abuse as
they have to walk long distances in isolated areas to fetch
firewood, Gianvenuti said.
To address some of these issues, the FAO plans to set up
nurseries for fast-growing trees, like Leucaena and Eucalyptus,
to supply refugees from four camps in Gambella with wood, he
The FAO and U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) have also agreed to
monitor deforestation with high resolution satellite images and
train local craftsmen to produce energy-saving clay stoves that
would cut wood consumption by up to 25 percent, Gianvenuti said.
FAO also plans to monitor deforestation in Uganda, which has
received 600,000 South Sudanese refugees so far, he added.
South Sudan plunged into civil war in December 2013 after a
long-running feud between President Salva Kiir and his former
deputy, Riek Machar, exploded into violence, often along ethnic
The conflict has driven more than 3 million people from
their homes and 600,000 more are expected to be displaced in
2017, according to U.N. estimates.
(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Katie
Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)