Monthly Archives: June 2012

EverGreen Agriculture Update – June 2012

FAO State of the Forests Report: Use trees wisely, whether they be in forests or on farms, is the core message contained in the FAO’s newly issued report, “The State of the World’s Forests 2012′. Hundreds of millions depend on trees for food, fruit, fodder, medicine and soil fertility; billions more on the timber and fiber trees produce. And, argues the FAO, if trees are properly managed, they can provide all this and more while restoring land, capturing carbon and reversing biodiversity loss. What’s not to like?

Bangladesh, the FAO survey reveals, has among the world’s lowest rate of forest coverage, at 6.7%. The world’s largest mangroves, found in its delta region, are being cut back. The lack of trees exacerbates the devastating floods this low-lying, densely populated country is exposed to (see here). Yet it need not be this wayPakistan’s Adbul Qadir Shah is a Sindi cotton farmer whose date palm, neem and mango trees allowed him to feed his family, rebuilt the capital stock and cotton crop ruined in last year’s devastating floods, and resume farming (his story is here). 

Evidence of trees’ usefulness is also coming from Senegal’s peanut basin, reports The Guardian. That is smack in the Sahel  zone, in the grip of its third drought in a decade. Yet peanut farmer Abdou Sall is cheerful: his trees have shielded him from hunger. “Last year there was lack of rain, but I had fewer problems than others. When it rained, the humidity stayed longer on my fields.” Sall has allowed trees on his fields since 2009, using farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR; protecting tree seedlings and pruning sprouting stumps so they rapidly grow into trees). “I do not need fertiliser now,” says Sall. Der Spiegel agrees, building a detailed profile (in German) of FMNR in this week’s issue around the career of World Vision’s Tony Rinaudo, who developed FMNR in Niger in the 1980s. The figures speak for themselves, argues Der Spiegel: Niger’s FMNR farmers generated a 14 000 ton cereal surplus, despite the drought. In Mali’s Dogon agroforestry lands, the surplus was even more surprising: 50 000 tons.  

Now busy introducing FMNR to Ethiopia’s Humbo plateau, Rinaudo has made a huge difference to the life of local farmer Thomas Hera. He has bought himself an oxen, rebuilt his house, and can finally send all his kids to school. “My life has improved dramatically,” says Hera.

How to grow more food is a crucial worry for the bone-dry Gulf states – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Emirates. Salon has a good review of what this has meant over decades, from the now out-of-favour desert farms watered from declining aquifers to today’s huge land deals. A brand new report by the World Agroforesrty Centre’s Frank Place and others sets out how some do land investment right, using agroforestry to manage sustainability and social elements and thus being able to generate higher incomes for all, from smallholders to investors.

Finally, we are proud to report that the World Agroforestry Centre’s Zac Tchoundjeu has won the 2012 National Geographic / Buffet Award for conservation leadership. Dr Tchoundjeu has made invaluable contributions toward the conservation of biodiversity in the Congo Basin, the development of sustainable agricultural techniques for smallscale farmers and the training of a new generation of African scientists and environmentalists. As the regional director of the World Agroforestry Centre’s regional office in Yaoundé, Cameroon, he leads international teams in 21 West and Central African countries that are focused on agroforestry, forest conservation and domestication of high-value indigenous fruit trees and medicinal plants, with the aim of enhancing the livelihoods of small-scale farmers. 


UNCCD Announces Three Winners for First Land for Life Award

The UNCCD has announced three winners for its first Land for Life Award, shining a spotlight on organizations that show tangible evidence combating land degradation.

The winners were announced by Miss Universe Leila Lopes from Angola at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, known as Rio 20, in the Rio Conventions Pavilion. The announcement also marked the global observance of the World Day to Combat Desertification on 17 June. The winners will share a prize fund of 100,000 USD.

Click here to read more.

Is Africa’s future evergreen?

By Torben Timmermann for CCAFS

June 18, 2012

“Re-greening of dry lands is not expensive and it is not technically difficult. In fact it is being done and it is fundamental to make smallholder farmers more productive, profitable and more resilient”.

These were the opening words from Christopher Shore, Director of Natural Environment and Climate Issues at World Vision, at the start of a Rio+20 side event on “Re-greening for Resilient Landscapes”. The idea was to present concrete examples on re-greening for resilient landscapes and give suggestions on how these can be scaled-up to benefit more farmers and pastoralists around the world, who are now suffering from dryland degradation.  It is important that the international donor community stops reacting to crises. We know that events such as the 2011 drought and subsequent crisis in East Africa, and the current lack of rains in the Sahel region of West Africa, will continue to take place in other parts of the world. Providing emergency relief to every crisis is neither sustainable nor affordable. Instead, there is a need to secure resilience proactively.

Targeting drylands is important due to the strong connection between land degradation, desertification and other global issues such as climate change, droughts and floods, famine and poverty. Drylands, together with grazing systems and crop production, are home to almost two billion people globally and one billion in Africa alone. Up to one-third of the global drylands are degraded and 74 per cent are at risk of desertification, which poses threats to crops and livestock. Deforestation is also a huge concern, contributing desertification and land degradation. Given these threats, countries have a huge opportunity to re-green their land, which can help to increase agricultural production and enhance the resilience of local communities to droughts and other disasters.

There are many innovations that can raise productivity in the soils, such as tree plantation, agroforestry, soil management; the question is how these can be scaled-up to benefit more smallholder farmers and pastoralists.

“Ensuring the right collaboration among key stakeholders is crucial” said, Carlos Seré, Director for strategic planning at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The systems are highly complex so working in silos is not an option. Emergency relief resources and development investments must be brought together with scientific research, include funds for provision of information via communication technologies. “Only by ensuring this process will small-holder farmers become resilient in the long run”, said Seré. He pointed out that until recently there had been a tendency to view things from a technical perspective only. “It is now clear that this has to be mixed with financial cash transfers; payments for environmental services and wildlife management,” he said, including also “carbon sequestration, scaling-up index insurance, new ICT solutions and getting the policy dialogue right”.  There is also great potential in scaling-up work from emergency relief actions, where aid reaches the country, but is not really invested in long-term supporting activities or institutions.

Re-greening must take stock of already existing plants and biodiversity. Chris Shore presented a case of tree planting, where foreign trees where re-planted in the Sahel. Needless to say, only 5 – 20 percent of those trees grew to full size. Instead, what had brought real success, for example in the Sahel, was reforestation from the existing plantation. Carefully treated what seemed to be small bushes were in fact trees that could easily grow up to two-meters tall. The results were revolutionary. Five million hectares of land have been reforested to date, improving soil fertility, holding water better and increasing agricultural productivity. All these farmer-led activities helped increase household incomes, a clear incentive for farmers to adopt new practices. 

Dennis Garrity, former Director General at the World Agroforestry Centre, now leads a major Evergreen Agriculture initiative, which includes a number of African organizations working scale-up their efforts. Garrity pointed out that this low-cost and low-risk way of doing business is now at a tipping point. With the right up-scaling this can benefit tens of millions of smallholder farmers over the next few years. The dryland areas are moving towards a whole new future where crops are grown in association with trees and natural regeneration of the trees that increases productivity.

If governments do their part to help mobilize organizations and ensure up scaling, he emphasized, then this “evergreen” agriculture can be one of the world’s great success stories in the coming years.


This post was written by Torben Timmemann, Head of Program Coordination and Communications at the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS).

We’re turning our land to sand

By 2030, global food needs will grow by 50 per cent, water by 30 per cent and energy demand by 45 per cent, claiming more productive land.

But every year, 12 million hectares of land is lost through desertification and drought alone. This is an area half the size of United Kingdom and could produce 20 million tonnes of grain per year. Globally, about 75 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost forever each year. Overall, about 1.5 billion people live off degrading land, of whom 74 per cent are the poor.

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‘Desertification is nearly as critical as climate change’ – Dr. Mansour N’Diaye

Dr. Mansour N’Diaye, Chef De Cabinet of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) secretariat, on the need for setting a sustainable development goal of “zero net land degradation by 2030” at the Rio+20 meet.

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Farmers must lead environmental sustainability fight – experts