Monthly Archives: June 2018

Agroforestry gives Kenyan indigenous community a lifeline

The Cherangani people, an indigenous community in Kenya’s Rift Valley, have always called the Cherangani Hills Forest their ancestral home.

Also known locally as the Sengwer, they were traditionally reliant on the forest for hunting and gathering, herbal medicines, honey, and sorghum and millet farming. Then the colonial government evicted them from the forest, only permitting them access to medicinal plants; gathering and hunting in the forest is still prohibited.

Their gardening of the forest required that they regularly rotate homestead areas, about every two years, to protect them from degeneration.

“The forest was our source of honey, hunting animals, and wild fruits for food. Seeds from some fruits found far away from the homesteads would be dispersed closer to the homestead to allow the children and the elderly access,” says Abraham Mworor Maina, a 94-year-old former assistant chief and father of 16.

Mworor says his community, dependent on sorghum and millet, used shovels curved with stones for minimal soil disturbance, and intercropped the grains with trees in an agroforestry system. “We also farmed between trees, as [they] provided shade. We also relied on the decayed trees’ leaves for soil health.”

“Agroforestry has been with us ever since before man discovered agriculture,” says Jonathan Muriuki, the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) country representative for Kenya. “As a hunter-gatherer, man would harvest fruits from the forest he was living [in] and at some time started domesticating some crops and animals, and clearing space to grow these crops. That’s where it all started.”

Muriuki says agroforestry tries to improve agriculture and productivity by having many components on the farm. “Several crops [like] cereals and legumes are intercropped with trees interspersed on the farm: the trees were either used for livestock fodder production, timber, fruit, [or] soil improvement, but the more species you have on the farm, the more ecologically balanced a farm becomes.”

Muriuki says agroforestry tries to improve agriculture and productivity by having many components on the farm. “Several crops [like] cereals and legumes are intercropped with trees interspersed on the farm: the trees were either used for livestock fodder production, timber, fruit, [or] soil improvement, but the more species you have on the farm, the more ecologically balanced a farm becomes.”

According to Muriuki, agroforestry helps reduce pests and disease, enhances nutrient cycling — since trees are deep-rooted and can draw nutrients from below the soil and bring them to the top — while decomposed leaves enrich the crop when they rot, improving soil health.

Trees also improve microclimates through the capture of moisture and store carbon dioxide. Under the Paris Agreement that aims to reduce global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase further to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), Kenya has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The country aims to achieve this goal while increasing tree cover from the current 7 percent to at least 10 percent by 2030 through agroforestry.

Today, the Cherangani are assimilated among communities adjacent to the Cherangani Forest, having adopted farming and the raising of livestock. They also practice their traditional agroforestry, but they must implement it outside the forest, as the government no longer recognizes their hunter-gatherer way of life.

Despite a majority having settled on the farms allocated by the government, about 5,000 people on the eastern block live within the forest boundaries as squatters, with no title deeds, while the rest are distributed in the three administrative counties of Trans-Nzoia, West Pokot and Elgeyo-Marakwet, around the Cherangani Hills.

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Originally published on the Mongabay website

Fundamental shift in drought management needed in Near East and North Africa region

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has called for a fundamental shift in the way drought is perceived and managed in the Near East and North Africa region. The agency said in a new report issued today that a more pro-active approach based on the principles of risk reduction is needed to build greater resilience to droughts.

Even though drought is a familiar phenomenon in the region, over the past four decades, droughts have become more widespread, prolonged and frequent – likely due to climate change.

The region is not only highly prone to drought, but also one of the world’s most water-scarce areas, with desert making up three quarters of its territory.

The Near East and North Africa’s technical, administrative, and financial capacities to deal with drought are inadequate, rendering farmers and herders – the first and worst hit when drought strikes – even more vulnerable.

Farmers and herders face mounting challenges as water becomes scarcer, land more degraded and eroded, and soils more fragile.

Yet, there is still too much focus on recovering from drought rather than being less susceptible to it, with insufficient funding, preparedness, and coordination remaining significant constraints, warns the report.

“We need to perceive and manage droughts differently, and shift from emergency response to more pro-active policy and long-term planning to reduce risks and build greater resilience,” said Rene Castro, FAO’s Assistant Director-General, Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department.

“The report assesses gaps in current drought management and provides a solid base to help governments rethink policies and reformulate preparedness and response plans by offering solutions that take into account each country’s specific context,” added Castro.

Launched ahead of World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, the report was developed by FAO and the Water for Food Daugherty Global Institute at the University of Nebraska.

It covers 20 countries in the region – Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, and Yemen.

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Originally published on the FAO website.

Greening a toxic dryland

The Aral Sea in Central Asia started to shrink in the 1960s, when the Soviets diverted water from the two main rivers that flowed into it to feed vast new cotton fields. Today, the Sea is just is 10 per cent of its historic size.

The sandy dryland uncovered by the retreating water has become contaminated with pesticide run-off and triggered dust storms, causing local health problems. But now the Government of Uzbekistan is implementing a plan to green the dried-up seabed with millions of trees.

Their choice: the saxaul tree, a shrub-like species native to the deserts of central Asia, and now the first line of defense against climate change in Uzbekistan.

“One fully grown saxaul tree can fix up to 10 tons of soil around its roots,” Orazbay Allanazarov, a forestation specialist told the BBC.

The trees stop the wind picking up contaminated sand from the dried-up seabed and spreading it through the atmosphere. The plan is to cover the entire former bed with a forest. Forests are the source of 80 per cent of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity.

The trees are planted in rows 10 metres apart, so that when they mature and release seeds of their own, the gaps between the rows will be populated too. So far, around half a million hectares of the desert have been covered with saxaul trees. But there are still more than three million hectares to be covered. At the current pace, it could take 150 years to grow a forest to cover the entire area.

“We need to speed up the process. But for this we need more money, more foreign investment,” says Allanazarov.

Background: Land under pressure

Land is limited. Only about one third of our planet is land, and it’s coming under pressure from increasingly numerous and wealthy human populations. However, land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem solving, strong community involvement and cooperation at all levels.

Click here to learn more.

Originally published on the UN Environment website.

World atlas of desertification: third edition

The third edition of the World Atlas of Desertification (WAD3) takes a fresh look at land degradation – a phenomenon triggered by human land use that is likely to threaten our ability to make productive use of the Earth while still maintaining the critical global environmental goods and services in the future.

Human activity is a main driver of global environmental changes. Where issues that signal global change coincide, they may lead to land transformations that can cause degradation of the land resource. Global telecoupled and dynamic human consumption patterns precipitate interaction of these issues and their impact at the local level. Accommodating this complexity, WAD3 offers an information framework from which to identify the nature of potential problems and pursue solutions that conform to local conditions.

The two decades since publication of WAD2 saw a tremendous growth in our understanding of coupled-human and natural systems, and an overwhelming increase in global environmental datasets and analytical tools. Building on these advances, WAD3 portrays the dynamic human footprint on Earth and its consequences for the land resources. WAD3 identifies areas of concern where multiple lines of evidence converge that suggest potential problems so that they might be confirmed and suggest actions to reverse, arrest, or adapt to them.

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FMNR: a tool that counters drought related challenges

In his 1861 seminal book “Man and Nature”, George Marsh wrote these haunting words: “A territory larger than all Europe, the abundance of which sustained in bygone centuries a population scarcely inferior to that of the whole Western world at the present day, has been entirely withdrawn from human use, or, at best, is thinly inhabited…. there are parts of Asia Minor, of Northern Africa, of Greece, and even of Alpine Europe, where the operation of causes set in action by man has brought the face of the earth to a desolation almost as complete as that of the moon; and though, within that brief space of time which we call ‘the historical period,’ they are known to have been covered with luxuriant woods, verdant pastures, and fertile meadows.”

This level of destruction had been attained by the time world population had only reached a little over 1.2 billion. Bulldozers had not yet been invented and no forest had been laid low through the insatiable appetite of the chainsaw. Today we stand at a cross road. The massive cloud bursts of deforestation, land degradation, climate change and population growth are converging into a perfect storm, moving inexorably towards us and poised to engulf all in its path.

The world has long known that people need trees. At this critical time in history, it is now time to know, and to act on the fact that more than ever, trees need people, for the sake of the earth, and for the sake of all the earth’s inhabitants, including human kind. It is time to move beyond comprehension of, and remorse for the damage we have done. It’s time to act. Knowledge and sentiment will not save us from this impending peril of our own making. Fortunately, at the very time when unparalleled action is called for, we have a tool commensurate to the task of countering the enormous challenges before us. It is time for decisive action.

That tool is FMNR

Learn more through the book The Forest Maker by Johannes Dieterich. This book tells the story of FMNR, from its origins in Niger to its spread to 25 countries today. 

Originally published on the FMNR Hub.


Understanding the positive relationship that exists between crops and trees

Mbazira is a resident of  Kasambya Sub County, with two sons. He has been working with World Vision Uganda to enhance his farm through FMNR practices. He is the member of St. Margret good Samaritan farmers group is the model farmer that has succeeded in integrated tree- crop enterprise with the aim of growing crops as the same time conserving the environment, he narrates his story how his income status was change as well as livelihood.

When I saw the trees nearly getting finished, I decided to go for nature conservation where I allowed a lot of re- growth in my garden; this was achieved when I was selected to host FMNR demonstration site in Kakayo. I have a cool environment here and people enjoy coming here. My crops cannot be affected by sunshine because they are protected by trees. I was able to understand the positive relationship that exists between crops and trees through the skills attained as FMNR champions.

I love nature and that’s why I reserved some part of my land as conservation. I now have 3.5 acres of coffee, 200 trees of avocados and 70 trees of jack fruits. In 2011 I received three seedlings of improved avocados and they are doing well in my garden.  Integrated farming, particularly fruits, has made changes in my life and the community at large through the following ways; increased household income after selling the fruits which enables me to pay school fees in time, improved food security status, improved health through eating a balanced diet.

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Originally published on the FMNR Hub.