Cultivating hope: stories of triumph from Lemon Tree Trust’s 2023 Annual Garden Competitions

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 of the inspiring stories from competition participants across different camps.

Bersive 1 camp

Bakhat Othman, displaced from Sinjar for a decade, finds solace in her garden’s many vegetables and beautiful roses.

After designing her garden this year and planting flowers, she secured second prize in the competitions.

Bersive 2 camp

Basha Ezidi, hailing from Sinjar and displaced for nine years to Bersive 2, heard about Lemon Tree Trust’s competitions two years ago. He began nurturing his garden and this year took part and went on to winning a prize. “I felt a sense of pride because I persevered despite all the challenges and emerged victorious,” he declared.

Nooruddin Khalil Khalef has been displaced from the Maliki area since 2012. He decided to plant trees in his garden to reminisce about his gardening days in Syria. He shared, “Two years ago, I heard about Lemon Tree Trust and its gardening activities. I wanted to participate in the competitions, and I never expected to be one of the winners.” He emphasises the importance of gardening and making the most of the land.

Domiz 1 camp

Ahmed Abdulbaqi Ali Al-Ali, a displaced Syrian from Qamishli for six years, couldn’t engage in gardening back home due to circumstances. After hearing about Lemon Tree Trust’s competitions, he nurtured his camp garden, aiming to be a winner. He appreciates the organisation’s support and hopes that everyone can benefit from such opportunities.

Domiz 2 camp

Abbas Abdou Salmo, another Syrian refugee, found refuge in Domiz 2. He takes pride in designing his beautiful garden and wanted to take part in the competitions this year.

“I decided to join the competitions and aim for first place. With LTT’s help – they provided me with seeds to plant – I became one of the winners,” he shared.

Abbas encourages fellow camp residents to engage in gardening and looks forward to receiving seeds and trees suitable for all seasons.

Gawilan camp

Youssef Mohammad Salem hails from Ras al-Ain in northeastern Syria and has been a Gawilan resident camp for four years due to the war’s harsh conditions. Despite his illness, he loves gardening and finds solace in tending to his garden. “I always saw pictures of the competitions and many beautiful gardens. I wanted my family and me to participate, and I worked hard to be one of the winners,” he said.

Hassan Hussein, a native of Ras al-Ain who sought refuge in Gawilan camp in 2019, cherishes his garden. Despite his illness, he works hard on his garden, expanding it to grow more plants and was delighted to win first prize. “I felt proud because I put in a lot of effort despite the difficulties, and I was among the winners,” he shared.

Kabartu 1 camp

Naif Khalil Haso, displaced since 2014, has been tending to his garden ever since. “I felt happiness when I heard about the competitions, and I wanted to participate and be the first winner, and that’s what happened,” he stated.

Kabartu 2 camp

Farah Morad has been displaced from Sinjar in northern Iraq for nine years and assists her mother with gardening.

Farah decided to take part in this year’s competitions, and with a touch of anticipation, she secured third prize within Kabartu 2. She shared, “I expected to be among the winners, and indeed, I got the third place.”

Berkat Khedher Zandean, a Sinjar resident displaced for six years, started cultivating her garden four years ago. She planted apple and lemon trees and emphasises the importance of gardening for relaxation. “I didn’t expect to be the first winner of the organisation’s competitions, and I feel proud of what I’ve achieved”.

Learn more about our Annual Garden Competitions


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