The western lowlands of Eritrea have suffered years of conflict, displacement and resource degradation. What happens when refugees return and what sort of pressures do they place on the environment? How effectively can government respond, and how might planning decisions be made more effective? This research with the South Bank University (London), and Eritrean government and private sector partners undertook fieldwork in the period just after the recent Eritrean-Ethiopian border war had ended. The results are in the process of publication and indicate important lessons for decision makers in similar situations in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere.