Lemon Tree Trust

Where: Iraq

Since when: 2008

The target: Every Refugee Around the World

The Problem

Refugee camps are by their nature designed to ensure security and basic human necessities. What they are not designed to do is provide quality of life, human dignity and purpose, or promote mental health and wellness. The camps aren’t meant to be permanent residential settlements however due to circumstances of war and immigration policies outside the control of refugees they often become long term home for refugees.

The Solution

Gardening is a powerful tool to improve life in refugee camps. It addresses issues of isolation and mental health, producing beauty, belonging, food security, and promising economic stimulation. Gardens can cultivate community, a connection to cultural identity through what is planted, and the feeling of home. Through the provision of seeds and plants, and piloting garden initiatives, we empower social and economic change.

The Product

All of our activities are run by and for refugees and our activities are a hybrid of philanthropic and entrepreneurial, with three main pillars:

  • Garden Competitions – our core founding activity is the sponsoring of now over 1000 gardens created within refugee communities to compete for a prize
  • Discovery Garden – community garden where refugees are trained to grow flowers, vegetables and medicinal plants, maintain beehives and practice greywater reuse
  • Piloting new small business enterprises – currently we are working on developing plans for the largest urban rose farm.

The impact on the life of refugees

Gardening brings pride, dignity, and purpose to displaced people. This ‘urban greening’ is essential for providing shade, improving the soil, and contributing to food security. For many, a small personal garden, cultivated in the harshest conditions, is a significant source of solace and a connection with the past. Others are draw on their scientific expertise helping our plant breeding efforts to maximize our enterprises. We have distributed over 11,000 trees, ornamental plants and vegetable seedlings. Grown from 50 refugees participating in a gardening competition in one camp, to over 950 families participating across 5 camps in the KRG. The Discovery Garden is equally attended by women, children, and men. A small group of women engage in embroidering the bags used for emergency response gardening kits; it will not take much to convert this group into an SBE.

Our Team

Stephanie Hunt, Chairman & Creative Officer - Stephanie founded Lemon Tree Trust and currently leads the organization by Initiating and guiding all Lemon Tree Trust endeavors.

Alfonso Montiel, CEO - Alfonso leads the Lemon Tree Trust team and all of its business and philanthropic initiatives.

Dr. Sami Youseff, Vice President, Agricultural Programs - Sami works as a scientific and academic support for Lemon Tree Trust projects and has done so since 2015 in Kurdistan Region as a volunteer, as of July 2018 is the vice president of Lemon Tre Trust.

Shiar Mohamad, Operations Director - Shiar started works with Lemon Tree Trust in May 2017 as translator, projects and logistic coordinator. Has been working as Operations Director since July 2018.

Honar Safar Mahdi, Technical Director - Honar started as a judge in the gardens completion in May 2018, since then he has been working as Technical director since July 2018.

Aveen Ismael, Outreach Manager - Aveen has been working with Lemon Tree Trust since 2015 as Outreach, helping prepare the garden competitions and distributing seeds, rose bushes and trees, she has been working as outreach manager since July 2018.

Our Results

  • Hired 9 refugees as our local team serving the camp.
  • 6,000m2 “Discovery Garden,” with produce earmarked for the local market
  • Refugee students practice gardening for an hour a day.
  • Rehabilitation of water resource infrastructure.
  • Production of herbs, fruits, poultry, and vegetables for retail and social distribution.
  • Established camp-based tree and plant nursery.
  • Established urban agriculture demonstration and training facility that showcases: sustainable urban drainage systems; gardens using grey-water irrigation; compost organic waste; agroforestry/ecology; small-scale livestock; hydroponics.
  • Pilot for Urban Rose Farm Business, including distillation of rose water for commercial purposes. Rose water is in early production.
  • Medicinal plant production for use in the camp and retail sales outside.
  • Crops of edible plants that can support some of the camp’s vulnerable families

Our future goals, thanks to your donations 

Our 5-year goal is to expose every camp around the world to a garden competition. The goal is to reawaken and restore human dignity for every refugee; having the opportunity to receive seeds and participate in this most basic of communal activities should be available to every refugee, once their physiological and security needs are met. 10-year goal is to influence SBE cooperatives established in refugee camps around the world. Not all of these SBEs will be economically self-sufficient, and thus external financing of some form will likely be required in perpetuity. In 2019-2020, we are planning expansion gardens in refugee camps through our sponsoring new competitions, our Urban Rose Farm Business; expand our discovery garden to larger land and spread grey-water usage; establish a smart irrigation system, and create an open space for youth.

More about us … : www.lemontreetrust.org/ Insta/FB/Twitter: @lemontreetrust