Monthly Archives: June 2018

Yaouza’s Story: How Forest Conservation Can Boost Incomes in Niger

In Niger, the encroaching Sahel is a daily constraint for farmers – the wind, sand, dust, soil degradation, water scarcity, and recurring drought make it hard for farmers to provide for their families.

In the northeastern part of Niger, in the Maradi Region, World Vision works with local farmers on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) to combat the encroaching Sahel. FMNR is part agro-forestry, part environmental conservation, part Disaster Risk Reduction, and part economic driver. It works by finding indigenous tree species, once abundant in Niger but decimated by drought and human population pressure in the 1970s and 80s, and teaching farmers about pruning methodologies to allow those trees to regrow. The regrowth of the trees has shown to reduce surface wind speeds, increase soil fertility, increase ground water availability, increase yields, and reduce surface temperatures.

Since the inception of FMNR in the 1980s, its growth throughout the country cannot be understated. Currently, there is roughly 5 million hectares of land re-greened through FMNR, with approximately 200 million indigenous trees. In some of World Vision’s project sites, there is a 250 percent increase in tree/shrub density on FMNR sites and the average tree density increased from 35.57 trees per hectare in 2014 to 123 trees per hectare in 2017. This increase in density is helping farmers increase their staple crop production, primarily millet, by 58 percent due to soil revitalization, increased ground water availability, reduced wind speeds that take top soil away, and reduced surface temperatures in this very arid environment.

Champion Farmer Model

One farmer stands out among the rest – Yaouza Harouna. After incorporating FMNR on his 4.5-hectare rain-fed and 0.5-hectare irrigated land in 2013, he now can fully provide for his family. Yaouza has re-grown roughly 310 new trees, including 60 Sahel apple trees. By implementing FMNR, Yaouza increased the productive capacity of his land and became a sustainable farmer. In the Guidan-Roumdji district where he lives, the average millet yield is 547 kg/hectare,—he produced 937 kg/hectare by planting nearest the bases of his trees. He also produced 450 kgs of peanuts, 250 kgs of cowpeas, 375 kgs of sorghum, 2,000 watermelons, and 833 kgs of Sahel apples from his new trees.

Click here for the full story.

Originally published on the Farming First website.

World Bank finds more trees means greater resilience to drought

The World Bank just released a drylands research study on Friday June 1 and one of the most exciting findings was the positive correlation between tree density and resilience to drought.

“Crop modeling carried out for this study helped provide orders of magnitude of the benefits of FMNR in terms of reduction of drought impacts. When FMNR of native species is added to the other productivity-enhancing technologies discussed in this book, the effects are impressiveIn a group of 10 countries in East and West Africa, the projected number of poor, drought-affected people living in drylands in 2030 fell—compared to the Business As Usual scenario—by 13 percent with low density tree systems and by more than 50 percent with high-density [10 trees/ha] tree systems”. (p73 – table below).

The ramifications are significant for how we think about FMNR and disaster risk reduction. Using FMNR to increase tree density in these dryland countries could reduce the number of people impacted by drought by 50% by 2030. To put this in perspective in the Republic of the Niger, farmers practicing FMNR have an average of 40 trees per hectare, which according to this study would give farmers even greater resilience to shocks.

We know from Niger that wide scale land restoration using FMNR is possible: as of 2016 there have been some 240 million trees regenerated across six million hectares. This report gives even more rationale to suggest widescale restoration through FMNR could, and should, be replicated in other dryland contexts in Africa.

Indeed, the Africa Union’s 2nd African Drylands Week held in Ndjamena (August, 2014) called for massive scale up of FMNR in the conference declaration: “(We) recommend and propose that the drylands development community, through the African Union, and all collaborating and supporting organizations, commit seriously to achieving the goal of enabling every farm family and everyvillage across the drylands of Africa to be practicing FMNR and ANR by the year 2025,“. Furthermore, 25 African countries have committed to restoring over 80 million hectares to help reach the target of the AFR100 initiative. This initiative is calling for the restoration of 100 million hectares of degraded land across Africa by 2030.

Originally published on the FMNR Hub.

Click here to learn more.

Why Feeding The World’s Hungry Is Actually About Trees

African farmers are successfully tackling the environmental dilemma that Western experts couldn’t – and the results can be seen from space!

Just weeks ago I walked through Uganda’s largest refugee camp, Bidi Bidi, where more than 270,000 survivors of war, persecution and famine are struggling to rebuild their lives. Every week more people arrive. And every week, more trees are cut down for firewood and shelter.

What was once more than 250 square kilometres of bushland, with scattered villages, is now an ever-growing dustbowl.

It’s a dilemma that aid organisations grapple with across the world.

With the average refugee using more than 3.5 kilograms of wood a day, every last tree at Bidi Bidi will be gone within three years.

Some suggest planting more trees, but I know from hard experience that this, on its own, is rarely the answer. I was among those who planted thousands of trees in Niger in the 1970s, only for the majority to die in the scorching heat, or to be used for fuel and housing. It was an expensive failure.

Re-growing forests is essential to the well-being of humans and ecosystems. Not only do forests provide fuel and building materials, they buffer us from the extremes of climate change. Moist forest floors retain water and help protect us from drought and flood. Trees on farms even improve soil fertility and the microclimate, increasing crop yields, fodder availability and livestock productivity.

But how do you convince some of the poorest people in famine-prone areas that they shouldn’t chop down trees, when they need firewood to cook today, otherwise their families won’t eat?

And what do you do when extensive tree planting doesn’t work?

Click here to read more.

Originally published on the Ten Daily website.