Tuesday, 27 November 2012


A delegation from Nigeria visits the village of Dan Saga (Aguié district, Niger) to draw lessons from Niger’s re-greening experience for agroforestry policy and practice in Nigeria. The delegation got some hands on training by the farmers in selection of stems and in pruning.

Why is it important to scale existing farmer managed re-greening?

On-farm trees (agroforestry systems) are the pillar of future agriculture in Africa’s drylands and sub-humid regions, but this is also true for drylands in other parts of the world. They help smallholder farmers create more complex, more productive and drought-resilient farming systems. On-farm trees not only increase food security, but they also help farmers to adapt to climate change, produce more fodder for livestock and a wide range of other benefits (energy, nutrition, cash, medicinal produce). Increasing the number of on-farm trees is only a first essential step; more is needed to significantly increase crop yields for a rapidly growing population. A big advantage of on-farm trees is that they help maintain or improve soil organic matter, which makes it rational for farmers to begin using small quantities of inorganic fertilizers.

The pruning of Guiéra senegalensis (Niger, June 2012) produces significant quantities of leaves (soil organic matter) as well as branches and twigs (household energy).

This helps increase crop yields significantly. As farmers from the village of Dan Saga (Niger) explained during a workshop in Ouagadougou in June…”we are now systematically combining agroforestry and small quantities of inorganic fertilizers (micro dosing) and this allows us to harvest about 1000 kg/ha instead of about 500 kg/ha”.

If micro dosing could be introduced during the next 5 years on 1 million ha of existing agroforestry parklands in Niger, it would increase crop production by about 500,000 ton. Many smallholder farmers would become food secure and could even produce a surplus for the market. Before presenting the components of a scaling strategy, the question should be answered why it has taken 7 months to produce this new update? The answer is simple…there were a number of activities and promising developments, which contributed to postponing the writing of a new update.

Some promising developments

Expanding re-greening into Northern Nigeria

Early June, a 25 person strong delegation from Nigeria visited the Maradi and Zinder Regions in Niger to draw lessons from Niger’s experience with re-greening for agroforestry policy and practice in Nigeria (see pictures front page). This visit was co-organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Nigeria and ARI’s partners in Niger, in particular Prof. Adam Toudou and Dr. Abassé Tougiani. It was co-funded by IFAD and by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Parts of Northern Nigeria have high population densities and low on-farm tree densities, which means that this is a case of “low hanging fruit”. There is a potential for quickly expanding the number of on-farm trees through the protection of natural regeneration.

Before leaving Niger, all participants developed their own points of action. Upon return, several participants decided to try to develop on-the-ground activities. We’ll brief you in the next updates about developments.

A regional food and water initiative for the Sahel and the Horn of Africa

At the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) began on August 1 an intensive process of formulating a major regional food and water initiative for the Sahel and the Horn of Africa. The proposal will be submitted before the end of 2012 and, if approved, implementation will start early in 2013. The approach of this land user driven program will be to expand the scale of existing successes. Its technical components include agroforestry with an accent on farmer-managed re-greening, water harvesting, micro dosing (small quantities of inorganic fertilizers) and improved seeds. These technologies have often been promoted and used in isolation, but this program will integrate these activities as much as possible. The program proposal emphasizes the need for flexibility in order to be able to respond to emerging opportunities and it does not rigidly fix targets like conventional projects do, but it wants to develop a multi-stakeholder movement and a process. We’ll know soon whether the proposal will be accepted or rejected.

A movement is developing around farmer-managed re-greening

OXFAM NOVIB has decided to support the development of agroforestry in Senegal and in Niger. OXFAM America supports a major women’s credit and savings program in Mali with more than 400,000 members, who have identified the depletion of soil fertility as a main problem that can be tackled by increasing the number of on-farm trees.

World Vision Australia is increasing its support for farmer-managed re-greening and so do other World Vision countries, in particular after the successful “Beating the Famine” conference in Nairobi in April 2012 (see ARI update 2012 no.4).

As mentioned in earlier updates, IFAD is already supporting agroforestry in the Sahel and its project in Niger’s Aguié District is a source of inspiration. The World Bank TerrAfrica and the Global Environment Facility have put agroforestry/farmer-managed re-greening firmly on their agenda.

Slowly but surely, the interest in agroforestry is increasing, but more needs to be done to put agroforestry firmly on the global policy agenda’s

A workshop on the economic impacts of agroforestry systems in the Sahel

From 8 – 11 October re-greening partners from Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal met in Ouagadougou with ICRAF and its partners amongst others to discuss the first results of an ICRAF study funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and co-funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). This study on the economic impacts of agroforestry systems in the Sahel is based on interviews with 1040 households in 4 countries. It indicates that agroforestry improves food security, but there are differences between each country. As soon as the report will be available, a next update will summarize the findings.

Scaling existing re-greening successes: how do you do it?

This update does not offer space to go into details, but it is possible to briefly present 18 different components of a scaling strategy. A working paper will soon be published, which will treat each component in more detail. Most of these components are already used by re-greening partners in the Sahel, but they are also applicable in very different socioeconomic and agro-ecological situations, for instance in the USA, Brazil or India. The starting point is always the identification and analysis of smaller and bigger re-greening successes, which can be found in many places. Even in situations that seem to be bleak, it is always possible to find farmers and villages that have innovated to overcome a crisis. These successes can be used as sources of inspiration, training grounds and seed banks.


1. Organize farmer-to-farmer visits

2. Farmer experts train farmers and herders

3. Support or develop village institutions

4. Introduce agroforestry competitions at different levels

5. Develop a movement of non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations and build their capacity to promote re-greening by farmers (men and women).

This cluster of activities shows that knowledge management is important. It’s about farmers sharing their knowledge and experience with other farmers, which is a widely used tool, and farmers with good knowledge and experience can train other farmers. The participants from the village of Dan Saga (Niger) in the above-mentioned workshop in Ouagadougou, mentioned that in their area 300 farmer experts (50% women) are now able to train other farmers in and outside Niger, and some already do so.

Re-greening is also about creating village institutions to manage the new capital asset: trees. Some villagers in Dan Saga have specific responsibilities for controlling whether everyone respects the rules that have been set by the community. (June 2012)


6. Adapt national agricultural policies and forestry legislation

7. Mainstream re-greening into existing and new agricultural development projects

8. Organize field visits for national policymakers

9. Create a Presidential Award for the best re-greening/agroforestry village

Developing a grassroots movement is important, but it’s not enough. National policies and forest legislation should be adapted to incentivize farmers to invest in trees. Unless farmers perceive ownership rights to their on-farm trees, they will be reluctant to invest in them. A draft national re-greening strategy or Niger proposes the creation of a Presidential Award for the best re-greening village. If that would be accepted, it can have a big impact. If the President decides to deliver the award personally, it will not only trigger a lot of attention from the national TV, radio and press, which helps spread the message about re-greening and its impacts, but it will also induce other villages to do better and join the competition.


10. Use the mass media to inform farmers and herders

11. Link ICT, radio and internet (develop a “web of speech”)

12. Produce documentaries for national TV

13. Organize national and regional experience sharing workshops

14. Mobilize African champions to promote re-greening

15. Mobilize international media

16. Develop advocacy at all levels

Too few people in Africa’s drylands, but also in the rest of the world, are aware about what has already been achieved, the multiple impacts of re-greening and the crucial role on-farm and off-farm trees play in improving livelihoods and in adaption to and mitigation of climate change. Development of agroforestry and restoring degraded forests has to get much higher on the national and international political agenda than it currently is.


17. Support the development of agroforestry value chains

18. Induce or support the private sector to develop input/output markets

National and international agroforestry value chains do already exist around some species like the Shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa) and baobab leaves harvested in Niger’s Mirriah district find their way to markets in Sudan and even in Saudi Arabia. A species that is on the rise in several countries, and has an untapped potential, is Moringa oleifera. It is also called the miracle tree, because of its considerable nutritional value. The picture below was taken in early June on the road between Niamey and Torodi (Niger). This zone has witnessed a big expansion of the area under Moringa oleifeira in the last few years.

Moringa oleifera is expanding rapidly along road between Niamey and Torodi (Niger). This picture was taken early June 2012. The lack of clarity is due to the quantities of fine soil particles in the air

Request The 18 components of the scaling strategy are neither perfect nor complete. If you have any questions, remarks or suggestions regarding the scaling strategy, please send them to Chris Reij .

Media attention for re-greening Re-greening successes continue to generate media attention. The Public Broadcasting System (PBS) in the USA made a documentary in Niger end May/early June 2012 about the famine, but it also wanted to show the solutions and it showed the increasing on-farm tree densities in Maradi’s Aguié. It’s a nicely balanced story, which they gave the following title: “Amidst drought and famine Niger leads West Africa in addressing crisis”.

This documentary was broadcasted across the USA by PBS Newshour.

Some re-greening partners in action IED Afrique in Senegal One of the key activities of IED Afrique is informing a network of environmental journalists in Senegal about re-greening. From 26 – 28 November about 20 journalists are visiting the region of Kaolack and to visit areas re-greened, discuss with farmers who have protected and managed trees, which regenerate spontaneously on their farms. Read more about this workshop and visit in the article published on Agence de Presse Sénégalaise. Besides Mamadou Fall, the re-greening coordinator of IED Afrique, a number of researchers from the National Agronomic Research Institute who have done research on yield impacts of re-greening accompany the environmental journalists.

This kind of activity is vital to get re-greening on the radar screen of a wider public and of national policy makers. It should be mentioned here that IED Afrique is collaborating closely with World Vision Senegal and other NGOs.

Reseau MARP in Burkina Faso

In July, the Reseau MARP organized a visit for national policymakers of three ministries to farmer innovators in the Zondoma and Yatenga provinces. It is important to expose policymakers to the innovations by farmers and to what’s happening on the ground. The delegation was accompanied by the press and radio, which triggered a flurry of media attention.

CRESA in Niger

As mentioned earlier in this update, our re-greening partners in Niger were actively involved in organizing a study visit by a major delegation from Nigeria to Southern Niger. Besides this, a number of studies on re-greening have been realized and a draft national agroforestry strategy has been developed, which remains to be discussed in a workshop. In the meantime, this draft strategy has been shared with the re-greening partners in the other Sahel countries, and they want to explore which parts of this strategy are relevant to the specific conditions in their countries.

SahelECO, Network Institute and World-Wide Web Foundation

SahelECO is working closely with Network Institute of Free University Amsterdam and with the World Wide Web Foundation on testing and implementing a so-called “ web of speech”, which is based on linking mobile phone and community radio. Rural communities lack access to electricity and have no access to the Internet. Communication is also hampered by the variety of small local African languages and dialects spoken in each region. The services are designed for those without Internet. The services are based on speech (in local languages) for those without reading skills. A radio platform is accessible by phone for farmers and rural “village reporters”. The interactivity that is thus generated, (“web of radios”) gives a voice to those communities and individuals who were previously not able to express their voices. You can learn more about this initiative by watching this short documentary.

The partners are working with community (rural) radios and farmer organizations for the deployment of these systems, in a co-creation setting with the local users (farmers!), to ensure they are optimized for the local rural conditions in Africa. The systems have extensively been tested in a production environment in Mali by all partners in cooperation with 6 radio stations.

Some final remarks about extreme weather conditions

In 2011, rainfall was bad in parts of the Sahel and millions of people suffered from hunger and malnutrition. The 2012 rainy season fortunately saw record rainfall and a bumper harvest.

17 states in the USA suffered this year from prolonged drought, which led to lower maize yields in states like Iowa and Kansas and a sell-off of livestock.

Early November, the Northeastern part of the USA was struck by hurricane Sandy, which caused devastation at a vast scale. In 2011, Mark Hertsgaard, a US environmental journalist, published a book called “Hot: living through the next 50 years on earth”. He quotes mayor Bloomberg who declared on Earth Day 2007 that coping with climate change was imperative to New York’s future and “he felt that New York was threatened by “ rising sea levels and intensifying storms”. Hertsgaard explores the city and its vulnerability to extreme weather events and what he describes almost exactly what happened early November (Hertsgaard, 2011: 97 – 104). In 2010, climatologist Heidi Cullen wrote a book called “The weather of the future: heat waves, extreme storms, and other scenes from a climate-changed planet”. She dedicated a full chapter to New York City (227 – 259), predicts correctly what happened and looks at the future.

In her book she also makes a forecast for the Sahel Re-greening Initiative in 2015 and in 2022 (p. 81-82). Her forecast for 2015 is that “through support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and OXFAM America, the re-greening initiative has spread across the Sahel”. Well…let’s hope this promising forecast will come true. Our re-greening partners don’t have the financial resources to meet the demands for expansion of activities to other provinces or districts.

The next update

The next update will be published end January 2013, or sooner in case there is a good reason to do so. The accent in that update will be on information about on-the-ground activities by field partners and about the Web Alliance for Re-greening in Africa.

An agroforestry parkland just south of Arba Minch in Ethiopia, which is dominated by Moringa stenotepala

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