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How gardens can bring beauty and dignity to refugees

Far from being temporary, refugee camps can provide accommodation for displaced people for many years. Gardens bring stability, beauty and dignity. Caroline Beck looks into the work of the Lemon Tree Trust, a project supporting those living in Domiz, a refugee camp in the plains of Kurdistan, Iraq.

If proof were needed that gardening is much more than just labour, then the stories emerging from a remote area of northern Iraq make a powerful case. Domiz is a windswept refugee camp in the plains of Kurdistan. Intermittent water and electricity supplies to more than 5,000 shelters provide a home, of sorts, to around 26,000 refugees many of them women and children, most forced out of neighbouring Syria by the brutal seven-year civil war. But for the past two years Domiz has been the seedbed of a small but important project to create gardens among the makeshift houses, tended by people who have lost almost everything. It’s co-ordinated and developed by the Lemon Tree Trust, a UK-based Community Interest Company (CIC) that began working in the camp in 2015 after seeing people creating their own patches of garden among the ugly sprawl of concrete, steel and flapping tarpaulins. It began in the simplest way possible, a modest competition to celebrate Domiz’s best garden, and has developed into a lifeline providing food, work and hope for hundreds of migrant families.


The Lemon Tree Trust is now extending its work to providing Crisis Response Garden Kits, ranging in size from a family garden to a large community project, providing seeds and tools so that newly arrived refugees can start growing food immediately. To date 1,200 kits have been designed and assembled in Domiz by a workers’ co-operative made up of refugees, with funding from cosmetics company LUSH and distributed by an Iraqi NGO, Mercy Hands.

For details on the Lemon TreeTrust and its partner organisations visit


Words Caroline Beck
Images c. The Lemon Tree Trust