Lemon Tree Trust’s long-term vision is to bring gardens and gardening initiatives to every refugee camp and community of forced migrants in the world. Creating community gardens is one way we can do this – they provide access to fresh food and boost food security, improve mental and physical health, and offer a safe space to build and grow a community.  

Azadi Community Garden, Domiz 1 camp, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI)  

Photo collage of gardeners tending to the Axadi Community Garden, Domiz 1 camp, Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Since 2016, the Azadi Community Garden (‘azadi’ means ‘liberation’ in Arabic) has been a busy hub of gardening activity, welcoming more than 50 women and their children every day. As well as tending to vegetables and herbs, it is a place to learn new skills and a safe space to meet and socialise.  

At our learning hub we teach several techniques used in small-scale food production within a camp environment, in addition to more general gardening and plant care workshops. Specialist techniques include recycling greywater, composting, planting in small spaces, growing under plastic, picking and drying herbs for our Sidra Tea Blend of herbal tea. At the hub we also coordinate our wider seed distributions and garden competitions.  

Our gardeners are allocated a raised bed and are welcomed into the garden on a rota basis to regularly tend to their plants. A wider planting scheme is organised by our operations manager Aveen Ibrahim and her team. Families gardening here are able to take as much as they need for their households and neighbours. Any surplus is sorted into smaller parcels before being safely distributed to vulnerable families living in Domiz 1 camp. 

Children love to visit the garden and help their parents and grandparents with activities such as feeding our small chicken flock and group of rabbits, which are kept for eggs and meat. A bread oven enables families to make Syrian flatbreads or ‘khubz’ – making bread from scratch is relatively easy and an activity that children traditionally help their mothers with from a young age. Residents can use the oven whenever they want, and always make extra bread to distribute to families in the camp. 

Traditional bread making inn the Azadi Community Garden, Domiz 1 camp, Kurdistan

About Domiz 1 camp

Domiz 1 is one of the largest camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and is home to more than 30,000 refugees, predominantly from Syria.  

Community Garden, Bersive 1 camp, Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI)

Aerial photograph of the Bersive 1 community garden and play area at the SEED Community Centre, Kurdistan Region of Iraq

An area of green space, created in 2020 at the SEED Foundation community centre in Bersive 1 camp, welcomes women, men and families recovering from trauma to re-connect with nature. Working in partnership with the SEED Foundation and camp residents, our team from Domiz 1 camp renovated the existing play area and created fun novelty planters to encourage children to help tend the garden. 

Features include:  

  • A new trampoline in the play area, plus foam flooring and artificial grassproviding a colourful and safe space for children 
  • Several raised bed planters of varying sizes for adult and children to plant up and tend to 
  • Teacup planters sown with our herbal tea ingredients for gardeners to nurture and use to make a rewarding cup of tea after a gardening session when they socialise with new friends  
  • A whimsical water fountain next to the seating area providesoothing sounds in the garden 
  • Shrubs at the archway entrance to the garden gives visitors a warm welcome 

Informal gardening workshops are run for groups of children and adults, where we explain the importance of healthy soil to ensure seeds are given the best start in life and talk through how to nurture plants from seedling to maturity. Individuals are given part of a planter to care for and shown how to plant the seeds and water them in. Adults are given vegetable and herb seeds, whereas children are given cress and other micro salads, which germinate quickly and can be easily harvested, giving the children swift results and satisfaction.  

Photo collage of the community garden activities with groups of children and women at the SEED Community Centre in Bersive 1 camp, Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

Working with Bersive 1 camp management, we have established our Garden of the Month prize to recognise the efforts residents have made with their own home gardens. Further gardening initiatives, such as our annual gardening competitions, are also being rolled out in the camp during 2021.  

About Bersive 1 camp

This camp in the northern reaches of Kurdistan Region of Iraq is home to a mixed community of around 7,800 people from Yazidi and Kurdish cultures. Many of the Yazidis have been forcibly displaced by ISIS from their home of Sinjar (Shingal), in Federal Iraq. 

Ridgecrest Community Garden, Vickery Meadow, Dallas, Texas, USA 

Since 2016, we have supported a group of passionate and skilled gardeners at the Ridgecrest Community Garden located in Vickery Meadow, Dallas. Established by the Vickery Meadow community in 2010, this thriving garden is situated in an under-resourced neighbourhood in central Dallas which is home to a significant proportion of the city’s resettled refugee population. The gardeners, all US citizens now but originally from Bhutan, Burma, South Sudan and other countries, grow native plants from their beloved homes, along with classic Dallas favourites. Most use the produce in their home kitchens and a few sell their surplus to neighbours and friends.

With help from our resident gardeners, we have added several landscaping features, including the addition of trellises to the 50 beds in 2019 to aid vertical planting.

The Vickery Meadow Community Garden physically nourishes the neighbourhood but sustains its spirit as well. The gardeners use the familiar practice of gardening to build connections and put down ‘roots’ in their adopted country.

The Vickery Meadow Community Garden thriving in 2019 © Monica Rodriguez 

Help our gardeners to grow at home

The Lemon Tree Trust welcomes one-off and regular donations. 

To make a donation, please go to: lemontreetrust.org/donate

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
 

We have awarded prizes to 72 winning gardens in our 2021 Lemon Tree Trust (LTT) annual garden competitions. LTT competitions took place in a record nine camps in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), despite ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. Winners have received cash prizes and gifts of seeds and plants, and all participants have received certificates.  … Continued

Land restoration in refugee camps and wider communities has enormous potential to enhance the living conditions of forcibly displaced people and the ecosystems of war-torn regions. To coincide with the official launch of the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration and World Environment Day on 5 June 2021, we were delighted to take part in a ‘Refugees and Restoration’ roundtable … Continued

Ahmed Ibrahim Ismail lives in the Azar neighbourhood of Domiz 2 camp. “I have a humble garden in my house, and I started working on it with my children two years ago. We have spent many good times in it, especially during the curfew for the coronavirus.⁣  ⁣“My garden contains 20 different types of roses and … Continued