Annual gardening competitions

The Lemon Tree Trust 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 gardeners have entered – we received 1,500 entries in 2019. 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.

Below in an overview of our gardening competitions year-on-year.


Two new camps took part in our competitions this year. 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.”

Find out more and view our Flickr photo galleries.


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.

Find out more and view our Flickr photo galleries.


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.”

Read more about the 2019 competition and browse our gallery of garden winners.

Aveen Ibrahem, Lemon Tree Trust Community Outreach Manager, pictured with Subhi Batal, winner in Domiz 2 camp and overall garden competition winner 2019.
Stephanie Hunt with one of the 2019 garden competition entrants in Gawillan camp.


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.

In addition, a new “Gardener of the Month” program was planned to recognize camp gardens and showcase innovation and creativity throughout the year.


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. 

To make a donation, please go to:

Our core infrastructure costs are fully funded so 100% of your donation directly supports gardening projects and initiatives in refugee communities.

  • $1 / £1 can give a family a packet of vegetable seeds 
  • $5 / £5 can provide a family a basket of nutritious produce 
  • $10 / £10 can buy a chicken for a community garden
  • $25 / £25 can fund a Home Garden Starter Kit for a new family arriving in the camp, containing a Home Garden Manual, seeds, tools, a grow-bag and a children’s gardening activity
  • $100 / £100 can give 5 families a lemon tree providing shade and fruit
  • $500 / £500 could provide 10 schools with a Children’s Garden Starter Kit for classrooms
  • $1,000 / £1,000 could purchase a new poly tunnel for one of our community gardens

Domiz 1 camp is the home of our headquarters in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and one of our community gardens, Azadi. We regularly get asked questions about the set-up and infrastructure of refugee and IDP (internally displaced people) camps, as well as the living conditions there, so we wanted to share what we know. … Continued

Our thanks go to the Young Propagators Society for publishing Aisha Ahmed Omar’s story in their digital zine. Aisha is a gardener who lives in Domiz 1 camp, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, after she was forcibly displaced from Syria. She shares how gardening brings her connection, comfort and joy:⁣“I have had great success in growing leafy vegetables, which … Continued

Congratulations to graphic designer Kulsum Karolia on winning a Bronze Creative Conscience Award for her Lemon Tree Trust project.   As part of a final year project at the Manchester School of Art, UK, Kulsum and fellow students were tasked with creatively responding to and raising awareness about a social issue – to inspire and educate a global audience.  We were delighted when Kulsum chose Lemon Tree Trust.   She said: “Something that really stood out to me … Continued