UN: Plant trees in refugee camps to stop forest loss

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Displaced men shelter in St George’s church in Bahir Dar, capital of Amhara Regional State, on May 28th 2018. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Tom Gardner

ROME (Reuters) – With a record 69 million people driven from their homes by war and persecution, the United Nations yesterday urged countries hosting large numbers of refugees to plant more trees as deforestation risks denuding landscapes and triggering conflict.

Four out of five people who flee their homes rely on firewood for cooking and heating, which is a major cause of deforestation in surrounding areas, said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“Basically we need more energy sources,” said Andrea Dekrout, a Geneva-based environmental expert with UNHCR.

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“In certain cases, forestry can meet that end,” she said, adding that the UN is also trialling the use of cooking gas as an alternative fuel in Tanzania and Bangladesh.

The two UN agencies published a manual on Wednesday advising governments and humanitarians to plant fast-growing trees for energy, food and fodder in areas hosting large numbers of displaced people to reduce tree loss and conflicts.

Uganda and Bangladesh are two priority countries, on the frontline of Africa and Asia’s largest refugee crises and host to more than 2 million uprooted people, mostly from South Sudan and Myanmar.

Conflicts in these two countries were major drivers of displacement in 2017, which saw the biggest increase in the global number of refugees in a single year.

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