Yearly Archives: 2012

Reforestation project adds hope to food crisis

Exploring Evergreen Agriculture at RIO+20 side event

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June 19, 2012

The challenge facing current regreening initiatives is how to find effective methods for upscaling test site successes. On the Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) blog, Torben Timmermann writes about one of the first side events taking place at RIO+20. Participants were invited to the Re-greening for Resilient Landscapes side event to see concrete examples of re-greening initiatives for large landscapes.

According to Timmermann, targeting drylands for regreening 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.

There are many innovations that can raise productivity in the soils, such as tree plantations, agroforestry and 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).

In Timmermann’s opinion, real success in the high risk areas such as the Sahel was as a result of reforestation from Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) practices.

Participants heard how FMNR practices have resulted in the reforested of five million hectares of land while protecting livelihood options for farmers. Its farmer-led approach is said to have helped increase household incomes that are encouraging farmers to adopt new practices. 

Dr Dennis Garrity, UN Drylands Ambassador and Senior Research Fellow at World Agroforestry Centre, pointed out that dryland areas are moving towards a whole new future where crops are grown in association with trees and natural regeneration of the trees that increase productivity. He leads a major Evergreen Agriculture initiative which includes a number of African organizations working to scale up sustainable agricultural practices.

With the right upscaling, Garrity was optimistic that Evergreen Agriculture could benefit tens of millions of smallholder farmers over the next few years.

Read the full story on CCAFS’ blog.

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Converting the Evergreen Agriculture concept to reality

The Times of India reports that eminent agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan advises that three key factors are needed in order to ensure food security.

Firstly that the right agricultural technologies must support traditional wisdom in management of the ecosystem while producing cash crops. It is no longer effective to simply emphasise the green economy. He suggested that the health of the ecosystem must be taken into account when considering food security so that those who are less fortunate can be protected against the impacts of climate change. The report seems to say this is why Dr Swaminathan is also encouraging meaningful investments into agroecological practices as a vital component of food security.

Swaminathan said modern practices like precision farming and climate-resilient farming or ‘smart farming’, would help convert the concept of ‘evergreen agriculture revolution’ into a reality.

Although India is able to produce enough food to feed it population, Dr Swaminathan lamented that malnutrition is still a major issue.

To change this malnutrition dip, Dr swamithan advised that, “It is important to restore confidence in the international trading system through policy options like putting in place the right import and export policies, as well as timely dissemination of information on market fundamentals.”

“We have to think in terms of a targeted PDS (public distribution system) versus a universal PDS. An important issue for the Food Security Act to tackle is whether PDS can be made universal in the 200 high-burden districts identified by the Prime Minister’s Nutrition Advisory Council,” he concluded.

Read more on this story.


Niger Famine and Regreening

Bridging the knowledge gap between farmers and scientists

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.