Togo: Planting acacias to mitigate Anié River floods

| June 6, 2024

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Annual flooding from the Anié River poses a continuous threat to homes along its river banks in Togo’s southern Plateaux region. Resident Alou Koffi underscores the severity of the damage, pointing to abandoned houses and erosion. The floods hit two to three times a year when the river is swollen by heavy rains, and result in property damage and displacement. To combat the flooding, an NGO is supporting residents to strategically plant trees along the riverbanks. Adjanto Akpo Komi elaborates on the community-driven approach, which includes planting and protecting seedlings. Today in the Tchikoyo neighbourhood, a strip of trees extends as far as the eye can see along the banks of the Anié River, protecting the neighbourhood from floods.

In southern Togo’s Plateaux region, the city of Anié stretches across a vast plain on both sides of the Anié River. Abandoned houses, ravines, and streams scattered throughout the landscape serve as reminders that the city was previously flooded by the river’s overflow.

Alou Koffi is a pastor in his 40s and lives in Anié’s Tchikoyo neighbourhood. He strides purposefully towards the banks of the Anié River, dressed in a traditional cloth shirt and running shoes. He points towards an abandoned house just opposite his own compound, saying, “This dilapidated house used to be inhabited a few years ago. But the family left due to multiple floods.” He says that runoff water erodes the land, creating ravines, and floodwaters invade homes during rainy periods. Floods occur two or three times a year between August and October, and are followed by violent winds. The main cause is torrential rains.

Now, residents of Anié are planting acacias along the banks of the Anié River to contain rising waters. Mr. Koffi and his neighbour have also planted lahia, also known as Ipomoea carnea, along the ravine near their homes to slow erosion and prevent the water from rising.

Due to limited resources, residents of Anié’s Tchikoyo neighbourhood sought assistance from the NGO, Organization for Development and Incentive to Self-Employment, or ODISE. This organization is leading a project aimed at enhancing the resilience of communities in southern Togo to climate change through sustainable forest and land management.

ODISE has provided young seedlings to residents to reforest the banks of the Anié River. The people of Tchikoyo reforested five hectares with 2,000 plants between 2018 and 2022. Today in the Tchikoyo neighbourhood, a strip of trees  extends as far as the eye can see along the banks of the Anié River, protecting the neighbourhood from floods.

Adjanto Akpo Komi is responsible for monitoring and evaluation at ODISE, and describes the process of reforestation. He says that, once the land is cleared, stakes are positioned approximately five metres apart. Then, they dig holes, 40 cm in depth and ranging from 20 to 40 cm in width. After planting seedlings in these holes, local communities collaborate to manage the seedlings, guard against roaming animals and wildfires, and replace any dead trees.

In addition to reforesting the riverbanks, the residents of Anié have developed a solidarity system to support each other in case of flooding. Katawè Tabè is the chief of the Tchikoyo neighbourhood in Anié. He says, “When there is flooding in the neighbourhood, we stay with the victims late into the night and organize assistance. Neighbours also welcome the victims within their homes.” 

A neighbourhood regent also contacts the National Civil Protection Agency, which provides donations of food such as rice and maize to the flood victims, as well as reconstruction materials like metal sheets and nails. The agency uses these opportunities to raise awareness about flood-prone areas, while also designating reception sites for evacuees and people in need of supplies.

Mr. Komi says that, in 2022, the Ministry of Security and Civil Protection documented 501 flood victims from 114 households and adds that, according to the National Civil Protection Agency, deforestation is the major cause of flooding, especially along riverbanks. He encourages people to use reforestation to slow down the flooding. Reforestation protects riverbanks and keeps water away from homes. He explains that plants stabilize the soil and protect the base of the riverbanks to prevent water from carrying away soil and sand and eroding the riverbanks.

Thanks to the acacia trees on the banks of the Anié River, residents have noticed a decrease in the number of floods. Mr. Koffi says, “Even though the rainfall was greater last year compared to 2022, the water did not inundate us. Truly, our reforestation efforts have saved us.”

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Photo: Anié River in Togo, taken by Magnim Karouwe in 2024