The Lemon Tree Trust’s garden competitions are a great way for us to connect with people on the ground and identify other potential areas of work. Gardens create communities and by establishing community garden spaces within refugee and IDP camps the Lemon Tree Trust is empowering people, particularly women, to improve their environment and create opportunities for their families.
We first ran a garden competition in Domiz 1 camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq in 2016, which attracted 50 entries. In every year since, more and more gardeners continue to enter, and we now run our competitions across nine camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The consistent annual increase in participation confirms the interest in gardening in refugee and IDP communities in the region, and validates the garden competitions as wonderful opportunities to introduce gardening to more communities in the future.
To take part, residents simply need a love of gardening and to want to share their love of plants with others. Entries are judged by our camp coordinators in the region for their evident love of plants, creativity and passion for nature.
Below in an overview of our gardening competitions year-on-year.
Lemon Tree Trust (LTT) has awarded 162 winning gardens in its annual garden competitions this year – 63 more prizes than last year.
Competitions took place in nine refugee and IDP (internally displaced people) camps across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq again this year, with 18 gardens from each camp being awarded prizes.
This year we wanted to do things a little differently with our competitions – to celebrate everyone’s beautiful gardens and dedication to greening their neighbourhoods – in a bigger way than usual. So, we increased the number of prizes being awarded and threw a garden party in each camp.
The parties were so much fun. Each winner was formally presented with a certificate and prize, and everyone was able to meet and chat with other gardeners over a slice of celebration cake – because no good party is complete without a cake!
We’re thrilled to have awarded 99 winning gardens in our 2022 annual garden competitions. Competitions took place in nine refugee and IDP (internally displaced people) camps across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), with 11 gardens from each camp being awarded prizes.
Two new camps took part in our competitions in 2021. Bersive 1 and Bersive 2 are both in the north of the region and are home to nearly 16,000 displaced people from other parts of Iraq.
Rody Sher, Lemon Tree Trust Country Director in Iraq, said:
“People across the region, and particularly those living in refugee and IDP* camp communities, are still struggling with daily life in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, in addition to other challenges, we have experienced severe hot weather and very little rainfall. It’s fantastic that so many people are choosing to create gardens to improve their environment for families and neighbours.
“Gardens provide shade, improve the air quality in camps and are a way for people to grow food and flowers. But most importantly for us, we know they can improve mental health and provide people with purpose and hope. Our garden competitions attract more people every year and we are already planning how we can bring them to even more people in 2022.”
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was not possible to run our garden competitions in the same way as previous years. However, as people self-isolate and stay home, home gardens have become more important than ever. Continuing to support people to grow for food and pleasure while camps are locked down during the outbreak has been a key priority for us.
We launched a ‘virtual’ home garden exhibition in April to recognise and reward the beautiful small spaces being lovingly tended by residents of camps across the KRI. Home gardens have long helped residents stay connected within their communities and keep busy. Gardeners have been invited to share photographs of their plants and home garden spaces via WhatsApp and Facebook groups. Our Lemon Tree Trust garden facilitators in each camp then choose a ‘winner’ each week and we are celebrating them by sharing their photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. All our winners this year will receive a lemon tree and all participants will receive packets of food and flower seeds.
“Our guiding principle has always been to encourage home gardening by distributing seeds. It’s a simple, but beautifully effective response to the ever-growing refugee and IDP crisis. As we all adjust to life in lockdown, watching as Covid-19 forces our daily lives to slow and adapt to a new kind of ‘normal’, we are driven more than ever by a desire to spread joy, hope and purpose through the distribution of packets of flower and food seeds. Thank you to everyone who supports our work and joins us in our celebration of gardens and gardening for everyone.” – Stephanie Hunt, Founder and CEO, Lemon Tree Trust.
Competitions took place in a record seven refugee and IDP camps in 2019, with nearly 1,500 gardens in the running for prizes. A combination of cash prizes and gifts of seeds and plants, with certificates for all the winners, were awarded at celebrations in every camp.
The Lemon Tree Trust Founder and CEO, Stephanie Hunt helped judge some of the competitions and said:
“I continue to be inspired by the creativity and ingenuity of people living in situations of forced migration. Their love of plants and gardening and their keen desire to bring beauty to their surroundings is what drives us at the Lemon Tree Trust. I loved visiting some of the winning gardens this year and look forward to watching them continue to grow and flourish over the coming months.”
Running in parallel with our refugee show garden at RHS Chelsea, our 2018 garden competitions welcomed more than 1,000 entrants across five refugee and IDP camps. The consistent annual increase in participation confirmed the interest in gardening in refugee and IDP communities in the region, and further validated our garden competitions as wonderful opportunities to introduce gardening to more communities in the future.
Holding a garden competition in 2016 and 2017 helped to encourage the further development of home gardens and innovative approaches to growing in small spaces. It also enabled us to meet people who were interested in growing and, through conversations and interviews, to discover the significance that gardens held for them.
The 2016 competition had approximately 50 entries and the 2017 competition 138 entries, (87 from men and 52 from women). Cash Prizes (1st $300, 2nd $200, 3rd $100) were offered for the best overall garden with 7 additional categories of $50 prizes for best garden in a small space, using recycled materials, rearing livestock and community gardening among others. Runners up received $20 and all participants were given a lemon tree.
Best Home Garden 2016
Winning Garden 2017
Winning Neighbourhood Garden 2017
Winner Best Innovation Garden 2017
Best Food Garden 2017
Best Ornamental Garden 2017
Help our gardeners to grow at home
The Lemon Tree Trust welcomes one-off and regular donations.
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Every year, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, our garden competitions shine a light on the green thumbs and resilient spirits of camp residents. Home gardens in refugee and IDP (internally displaced people) camps are more than just plots of land; they represent resilience, creativity, and a connection to a gardener’s past. Here are some … Continued