Some of you will remember the excellent Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration article provided by Tony Rinaudo of World Vision. It shared a rapid and highly effective way to reforest degraded landscapes by simply letting the ‘underground forest’ (the seeds, roots and shoots already existing in the landscape) do what it already wants to do: that being to just grow! Instead of expensive projects with imported seed, nurseries, propagation, watering, etc., Niger has seen net afforestation on a massive scale (over 5 million hectares in Niger alone) by simply educating locals in protecting and pruning the plants already at their feet.
Knock on effects have been improved health and prosperity for the people and their livestock. Harvesting prunings from the developing forest has provided firewood, fodder and mulch, while the increased diversity, the mulching and sun and wind protection is visibly improving the water retention capacity, structure, biology and fertility of soils. The combined result of such a scale of reforestation is, of course, soil, water and climate stabilisation.
Starting with just a few villages in the 1980s, the fast and obvious benefits have seen a rapid farmer-to-farmer word-of-mouth transfer of this concept, so that today even satellite images note the difference:
The pattern has been the same throughout the western Sahel: FMNR has spread largely by itself, from farmer to farmer and village to village, as people see the results with their own eyes and move to adopt the practice. Thanks to agro-forestry, satellite photos analyzed by the US Geological Survey can now discern the border between Niger and Nigeria. On the Niger side, where farmers are allowed to own trees and FMNR is commonplace, there is abundant tree cover; on the Nigeria side, where big tree-planting schemes have failed dramatically, the land is almost barren. – The Nation
Some of the key points:
- Farmers who had only one or two or no trees per hectare now have an average of 40 trees, or even up to 150 trees per hectare, totaling up to 200 million trees across the country
- More than 5 million hectares reforested in Niger, in only twenty years
- Nigerian farmers producing 500,000 tonnes more cereals per year as a result
- Per-household incomes have increased by US$200 p/year
- The idea is taking of in other places today – Senegal, Ethiopia, Myanmar and more.
This awesome achievement could not have occurred without:
- protection of user rights to land and trees
- community agreement in the idea and community cooperation to implement (i.e. ethically based participatory democracy)
More resources on this:
- The Biology of Global Warming
- Lessons from the Loess Plateau
- The World’s Largest Water Harvesting Earthworks Project