Sudanese refugees have become increasingly involved in development and sustainability projects by drawing out plans for their villages. The residents had been encouraged to do so by the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) and with the assistance of training from The World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the Sudanese Forest National Corporation (FNC) they are building self-sufficient communities and restoring the environment.
Until recently, the environment had not been a major priority in refugee camps and consequently suffered severe degeneration. In the past, aid and development projects in the area had been dedicated to medical care, food, and shelter. Thanks to a current three-year project funded by the Norwegian Government -Sustainable Options for Livelihood Security in Eastern Sudan (SOLSES) – and the assistance of the IUCN, FNC, and UNHCR, there is a greater initiative to protect the environment as well.
Tens of thousands of Eritean refugees have been living in Sudan for more than 40 years in camps that lacked natural resources. The refugees living in Shagreb camps in Kassala and Gedaref State, for example, have been living under poor sanitary conditions due to water problems and have also suffered vast deforestation in the area as well. Deforestation has not only harmed the local environment but also meant that women and children had to walk longer distances to find firewood and water.
The refugees and residents have been able to work towards reforestation, the organizing of agro-forestry plots, and other activities that help bring in income for their families. The knowledge to build and use more energy efficient stoves has been also a welcomed improvement for their quality of life.
By planting Sorghum and acacia trees the villages have more reliable sources for animal feed and fire wood, in a climate subject to severe droughts and temperatures that exceed 40 degrees Celsius.