More appropriate solutions to key problems

It is a major challenge to establishing enough suitable trees and other soil-improving and -conserving plants in financially and socially sustainable ways. So is ensuring nitrogen fixing plants actually fix nitrogen, tree seeds can germinate, soil and water are effectively conserved, competition with food crops minimized, and early benefits and long-term benefit are maximized. 

Reducing Carbon Emission through Afforestation in Imvepi Refugees settlement and host communities

U.S. Embassy Kampala is pleased to announce World Action Fund as the recipient of the 2017 Julia Taft Refugee Fund. Established in 2000 under the leadership of Julia Taft, the former Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, the initiative seeks to provide a means to respond to critical gaps not already addressed by UNHCR, other international organizations, or NGOs.

Last year, programs were funded in 39 different countries, with a maximum budget of $25,000 per country. World Action Fund’s proposal, “Reducing Carbon Emissions Through Environmental Conservation and Awareness,” was selected from the many proposals received.

World Action Fund plans to support refugees in Imvepi refugee settlement and surrounding host community members to plant trees and crops, construct energy-saving stoves, work with groups of individuals on farming and savings skills, identify business opportunities and provide skills training, and empower peace promotors to mediate conflict and ensure peaceful co-existence between refugees and their host communities


More reliable, fast, low-cost and small-farmer-appropriate solutions to these challenges were developed and documented by WAF’s Agricultural and Environmental Coordinator Torsten Mandal, agronomist (tropical crops and soils) MSc with many additional studies on agroforestry, soil fertility and development. It happened mainly while working with CARE International in Rwanda, and in western Kenya with Kenya Forestry Research Institute, ICRAF, Danida and the University of Copenhagen. Innovations and documented results are published in several relevant journals and proceedings incl. Agroforestry Systems 2004 with professor N E Nielsen, and publications on climate changes, small farmers and seed, land degradation (incl. one with N E Nielsen), conservation and development, forestry and poverty, nitrogen, trees and refugees.  In brief, key results in replicated on-farm field experiments were 2 to many times better than controls (standard guidelines to small farmers) and as good as commercial inputs hard to get.  Direct tree legume seeding became reliable without transplanting despite common stress factors (heat, drought, erosion, soil fertility, weeds, browsing…).  Unpublished experiments by Mandal from Rwanda, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania confirms the perspectives in building further on some traditional, neglected methods for the tree, soil, crop and seed management (incl. transplanting trees with bare wet roots if needed), maize-bean intercropping etc.).  The key results have been presented and discussed with many farmers and with many centers for research and development also in Uganda.

Northern Uganda – a model for receiving needy refugees or a growing environmental disaster?

Uganda has accepted to host over 1.5 million refugees, the 2nd highest number in the world from, mostly from the cruel civil war in South Sudan, and both the too small aid, institutions, land and natural resources have been shared more or less between refugees and the local population. It is a badly needed model, but the environment is getting highly stressed by tree felling, digging river sand for building materials causing erosion etc. Shared benefits of aid help making refugees accepted.

Our Environment and Agricultural Coordinator, Torsten Mandal, adds, that soil fertility and erodible drying soils low in organic matter are major challenges combined with rains that have been very unreliable in recent years. However, much can be done with more aid, real participation, and better methods, including sustainable methods that can give benefits after only a few months. They make it easier to establish trees also directly in fields and conserve soil, water, nutrients and carbon in West Nile region.

One on aid levels and refugee crisis causes, see ‘Switched on’ Uganda welcomes refugees – but at an environmental cost.

See also:

Guardian March 2017: ‘With the refugees being given land, voices are calling for education and funds to prevent the total destruction of trees’: https://goo.gl/fdtuHV s

UNHCR 18th July 2017: ‘Uganda: Emergency Update on the South Sudan Refugee Situation’- Inter-Agency Weekly | 5th.  https://lnkd.in/g-aR2nB and

Amnesty International 19 June 2017. ‘Donors failing almost a million South Sudanese refugees in Uganda’


South Sudanese Refugees in Imvepi settlement in Arua district


Shear tree cut but it give nutritional tree nuts that is a delicacy, and the tree has a lifespan of 200 years, it only takes few minutes to be destroyed and without replanting. The tree charcoal is believed to be the hardest and long lasting in burning

A man cutting tree for charcoal –  the only urban source of wood fuel for cooking. Wood provide by far most of the total energy supply in Uganda.

Sacks of needed charcoal ready for sale while and forest size rapidly reduces. People need planting materials and better methods for establishing trees that fit into farms, highly degraded soils, and many urgent needs. Trees can provide fruit and income when drought spoil seasonal crops plus wood for fuel and for structure for drying and storing enough crops for sale at fair prices and for the survival of droughts.


WAF in Omugo subcounty addressing Loose soils, hot and fast drying soil, and poor farming practices, in March 2016.