Category Archives: News

Jean Baptiste Mutabaruka is on the road to the local bank, again. When he gets there, he will inquire once more about raising money for an idea he thinks will reduce poverty in his small farming community of 60,000 in the province of Eastern Rwanda.

For 10 years, Jean Baptiste has journeyed through the parched villages of the Karangazi Sector, even in soaring heat, to champion the planting of trees, which he sees as a potent antidote to widespread poverty in the region.

According to research conducted by WRI, he is right. Planting and protecting trees would likely lead to increased land productivity, as well as improving food and water security. The Tigray region of Ethiopia halved its poverty level through restoring land over the last 20 years.

But the bank has not been able to fund him on a regular basis. He will have to find the money to buy the seedlings, to plant and protect trees as they grow, to support students to help, to purchase the tools for his work, somewhere else.

If the bank doesn’t bite this time, Jean Baptiste doesn’t know where he will turn. He waves to students in the nearby school, who play football on the dusty, red earth. Probably he will return to evangelizing his cause on his travels.

“I see that it’s possible to change it,” he says.

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Originally published on the WRI site.

When Holly and Barry Mawby arrived on their farm in Esmond, North Dakota in 2011, they discovered windbreaks that had not been cared for in decades. They quickly realized that they were in jeopardy of losing what little protection they had from the brutal winds.

Farmers are challenged by ever-increasing production demands under the uncertainties of changing weather conditions, climates, and markets. Agroforestry, the intentional integration of trees and shrubs into crop and livestock production systems, can enhance not only the resiliency, but also the productivity and profitability of agricultural operations and lands.

The US Forest Service has published a new report: Agroforestry: Enhancing Resiliency in U.S. Agricultural Landscapes Under Changing Conditions that presents the first-ever synthesis on agroforestry as a mechanism for improving the resiliency of farm lands. Drawing upon the most current science, the report shows how tree-based management strategies can improve agricultural production and resiliency, especially under changing environmental conditions.

Agroforestry is not a new idea; it has played a prominent role in the history of large-scale U.S. agricultural landscape management. In the 1930s, the Prairie States Forestry Program planted over 18,600 miles of windbreaks in the Great Plains to minimize soil erosion during the Dust Bowl period.

Practices like windbreaks and alley cropping, in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops, can reduce wind velocity, decrease erosion, and improve soil health. Silvopasture, the sustainable production of livestock, trees, and cattle on the same unit of land, allows trees to be managed for timber or other tree crops while providing shade and shelter for livestock.

Riparian buffers – vegetated areas along streams and other water bodies – stabilize banks, reduce nutrient runoff, and provide shade that helps keep rising stream temperatures in check. Forest farming, or the cultivation of high-value crops like ginseng or shitake mushrooms under a forest canopy, is another agroforestry tool used to diversify farm portfolios and provide economic stability for landowners.

Originally published on the USDA website

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Dr. Dennis Garrity, Drylands Ambassador to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification and former director general of the World Agroforestry Centre, shares his favorite drylands restoration success story: the spontaneous restoration by farmers of five million hectares of degraded land in Niger.

Click here to hear Dennis success story

Trees such as Faidherbia albida are planted in fields or pastures as natural fertilizer. In Zambia more than 160,000 farmers plant Faidherbia trees in their fields. Farmers in Niger have been able to make more than 4.8m hectares of land greener and more fertile, thanks to .

Click here to learn more

“A decade ago this land was dismissed as lost to the desert,” said ecologist Mamadou Diakite. He was smiling beneath the shade of a tree, one of hundreds growing vigorously all around him on land previously abandoned by local millet farmers.

The growth of these trees, and hundreds of millions more in a remote region of West Africa on the edge of the Sahara desert, is the result of local farmers abandoning long-standing advice from government experts to uproot trees on their fields – and to nurture them instead.

What is today called “Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration” is thought to have begun in the mid-1980s in Dan Saga, a village in the Maradi region of Niger, which suffered hugely from Sahel droughts in the 1970s.

The story is that some young men returned to their fields late in the season after working abroad. In a rush, they planted their crops without first clearing their land of woody plants. To their surprise, their grain yields were better than in neighbouring fields that had been cleared. When the same thing happened the next year, the village got the message: Trees were good for their crops.

So from then on, when preparing their land for planting, farmers cultivated stems growing from stumps in their fields. The resulting trees fixed nitrogen, stabilised soils and dropped leaves that maintained soil moisture.

And before long, the trees were providing firewood, animal fodder and other products, as well as shading crops and villages from wind and sun. The message spread. “It was slow to take off, but now they all want to do it,” Diakite said. “The land is coming back into production.”

This version of agroforestry has now extended across 5 million hectares of Niger. The 200 million extra trees benefit yields of millet and sorghum on more than a million farms, which typically gain an income of about $1,000 per year from selling products such as wood, fodder, fruit, pods and leaves.

And there is another, less immediately tangible benefit: The trees capture an estimated 30 million tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.

Niger’s grassroots revolution – which for a long time was invisible to outsiders – is not an isolated example of people bringing back diverse forests, but has been replicated in different forms in different corners of the globe – from once denuded farmlands in Costa Rica to the foothills of the Himalayas, from the remote Scottish coast to the Xingu basin in the Amazon, and elsewhere.

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Originally published on News Trust.

China plans to plant forests the size of Ireland. Latin American countries have pledged to restore 20m hectares of degraded forest and African countries more than 100m hectares. India is to plant 13m hectares, and on a single day last year 1.5 million people planted 66m trees in Madhya Pradesh alone.

This enthusiasm for a greener world, expressed in trees, is inspiring and overdue. For 200 years forested countries barely knew what to do with their trees. They were treated as expendable and a waste of space. But in a great cultural shift, they have changed from being dark and fearsome places to semi-sacred and untouchable.

And why not? In this new ecological age, we have learned that trees have far more value than providing timber: they keep soils moist, prevent floods and provide shelter, store carbon, beautify landscapes, protect water sources, increase biodiversity, improve conservation and induce human wellbeing. So woe betide councils such as Sheffield that want to cut down trees. From the Newbury bypass protests 20 years ago to today’s battles to save the ancient woodlands along the route of the HS2 rail link, there are few surer ways of angering people than cutting down their trees.

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Originally published on The Guardian