Niger: Farmers improve yields by letting trees grow in their fields (by Souleymane Maâzou, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Niger)

| December 17, 2012

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Salifou Abdou sits under a large baobab tree. His shirt is soaked with sweat. He’s taking a short break after clearing part of his field.

Mr. Adbou is a farmer in his sixties from the Maradi region of southern Niger. His method of clearing land is different than many farmers’. Over the last decade, he has allowed selected trees to grow in his field. It’s part of a practice known as Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR), or sasabé zamani in the local language. By incorporating trees in his field, Mr. Adbou has increased his yields of beans, millet, and sorghum and gained a new source of income from cut wood.

Moussa Ali is an agriculture technician with the Ministry of Agricultural Development. He works with farmers in the Maradi region. He explains that ANR is a practice for protecting and managing trees that grow naturally in farmers’ fields. The trees fertilize the soil, while also preventing soil erosion.

Mr. Ali says it’s a proven method to increase millet yields. He notes that wherever ANR is practiced in Niger, the millet yield per hectare has increased from 100 to 300 kilograms.

Mr. Abdou explains how he uses ANR: During the rainy season, he examines the young trees and shrubs that have sprouted. He selects beneficial trees and shrubs and allows them to grow. Then he removes the saplings of other species.

The results are clear. He points to his field, saying, “Look how my field is covered with trees and shrubs. A few years back, it was almost a desert.”

More trees in his field mean more money in his pocket. Mr. Abdou’s millet yields have tripled. He also harvests wood each year, under the supervision of the area forest agent. Selling cut wood allows him to pay for school supplies for his two young sons. He can also save money to pay for other family expenses.

Mr. Ali says that ANR has spread throughout the Maradi region, as successful farmers have encouraged others to take up the practice.

Abdoulaye Haladou is another local farmer. He says: “Since I began practicing modern clearing, my field’s production has increased. Today, more than a hundred heads of families use this simple technique.”

Mr. Abdou’s is clear about his preference for the ANR technique. He likes the fact that it is simple, and that it requires the farmer to use patience rather than complete reliance on technical solutions.