03 May 2016
|“It is clear that Dzaleka Refugee Camp has a problem with a lack of trees and it is not good to live in that kind of environment because that could affect our personal health as well as the general environment."|
Dzaleka, 3 May 2016 – As you enter Dzaleka Refugee Camp from the road leading to Dowa District, the most notable aspect of the landscape is the lack of foliage. Apart from the young trees near the compound that houses the various Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) offices, Dzaleka is covered in red soil that is renowned for blanketing everything in a bothersome layer of dust at the slightest hint of a breeze.
In an effort to reverse this, for the first time since its presence at the Camp, JRS has been tasked with the responsibility of planting approximately 23000 trees at Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
This was the perfect opportunity for JRS to enlist refugees from the camp to actively participate in a community upliftment project. Students from the JRS-JC:HEM (Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins) Community Service Learning Tracks (CSLT) in the Youth Worker and the Sustainable Agriculture Tracks as well as students from secondary school got their hands dirty and planted trees in different places within the camp.
“It is clear that Dzaleka Refugee Camp has a problem with a lack of trees and it is not good to live in that kind of environment because that could affect our personal health as well as the general environment. So the UNHCR representative saw that it will be better to work with the community in Dazaleka to drive home the idea that this environment belongs to them and that they are responsible for it, so they must take part in it to improve it.” says Martha Napiri from UNHCR, Programme Unit.
A similar project was under PRDO (Participatory Rural Development Organization), but it was only meant for Malawian nationals. The idea for the project at Dzaleka was to use JRS:JC-HEM students as the CSLTs are designed to create and foster community leaders. The environment and environmental health is the responsibility of the community and its leaders. These students are meant to inculcate a sense of community amongst the refugees of Dzaleka and theyare leaders within the community and their participation is essential.
As long as climate change is a global concern, planting trees is a welcome step toward a permanent solution to potentially devastating problem in the near future. “That is why we came up with this project as the mission is to plant and grow as many trees as possible and ensure environmental sustainability through active involvement of refugees in environmental activities so as to promote a sense of ownership. Our vision is to build a green environment for everyone living in this camp and for the coming generation to provide them with a hospitable environment by planting more trees.” explained Napiri.
Story by: Robert Kabale Mbanda, Hugo Hivanove Mpenzi and Joseph Kabila Bahulule/Dzaleka Refugee Camp, Malawi
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