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Bangladesh | FAO and Rohingya refugees restore forests in and around once barren camps

Oct 2020

The degradation of land within and near the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, was a crisis within a crisis, but FAO has been at the forefront of planting millions of trees with help from the refugees themselves.

Based on satellite imagery, FAO estimates that 7 220 ha of forestland had been degraded, threatening wildlife habitats, biodiversity, and ecosystems. 

The environmental crisis was recognized early in the response in 2017 by FAO and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), who assessed food fuel supply and demand. In late 2018, FAO piloted liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), distributing the cooking fuel to refugees and the host community. 

This developed into the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE plus) project – an FAO, IOM, and World Food Programme (WFP) joint initiative to address sustainable energy needs, environmental restoration, and resilient livelihoods.

FAO is leading reforestation activities and, together with the Forest Department, developed a land stabilization method, promoting plantation of various fast-growing indigenous species. FAO has restored nearly 258 ha of land inside the camps, and together with the Forest Department, a further 2 000 ha of forestland that surrounds the camps. This has involved the planting of millions of trees, plus measures to protect elephants. 

The refugees, through a cash-for-work initiative, have played a crucial role in supporting the land rehabilitation through the planting and care of trees, shrubs, and grasses.

Author: FAO in Bangladesh

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