Fatimata Koama and her farmers’ group received more than half a million CFA francs this year to plant and maintain 1,200 trees. Ms. Koama says, “Trees are important. We plant mostly exotic species, but also mango, moringa, and pawpaw trees.” Ms. Koama lives in the northern province of Nayala in Burkina Faso. She is the leader of a farmers’ group which calls itself Magoulé, meaning “I believe” in the local San language.
The payout is equivalent to about 1,200 US dollars, or one dollar per tree. It is part of a strategy to strengthen reforestation efforts, according to environmental group SOS Sahel and Burkina Faso’s Ministry of the Environment. A 2010 study by the ministry found that over 110,000 hectares of forest are degraded each year in the country, about four per cent of the total forested area.
Salifou Ouédraogo is SOS Sahel’s executive director. He says the bonus scheme is a response to the failure of classic reforestation programs, in which as many as nine out of every ten saplings die. He notes, “We did some research, and found this method [of paying a bonus] had been used by the colonialists to introduce cocoa and coffee in Côte d’Ivoire.”
The program signs contracts with farmers, providing them with modest rewards when a tree survives. The survival rate of young trees has jumped to about 70 per cent, compared to just 10 per cent in conventional reforestation campaigns.
Mouni Conombo is coordinator of SOS Sahel in Nayala province. He says, “We don’t pay [the farmers] for all the work that goes into tending the sapling.” Rather, as Mr. Conombo explains, “We encourage them, helping them understand how it is better to plant a tree and nurture it. If a [newly-planted] tree survives for 24 months, we reward those who planted it.”
SOS Sahel has been using this strategy since 2001, taking advantage of donor support to pay a cash bonus to farmers. Their success led the environment ministry to adopt the approach as a national policy.
Boureima Dao farms in the village of Ey, in Nayala. He says, “It’s been three years since I signed a contract. I have 11 hectares and I have earned a bonus of 206,000 CFA (around 438 dollars) for my orchard of fruit trees.” In Nayala province alone, more than 170 contracts have been signed with local farmers.
But simply planting saplings is not enough. They need to be protected from livestock, human activities and other natural factors. The strategy of using contracts encourages those who plant trees to take responsibility for them, which gives the trees a better chance of survival.
But the new strategy is not one hundred per cent effective. Mr. Ouédraogo says, “For every ten groups who sign up, only five return for the seedlings the following year, because the others have not respected the terms.”
For those who do honour the contracts, the strategy has transformed attitudes towards planting trees. Mr. Conombo says, “It is different from the traditional programs of reforestation in which one only provides seedlings.” He emphasizes, “What we are trying to encourage is a real commitment to planting a tree and caring for it as one would care for a child.”