Farmers in Niger benefit from letting trees grow in their fields

| April 4, 2016

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Like this week’s story from East Africa, our Script of the week focuses on farmer-managed natural regeneration, or FMNR.

In the 1970s and 80s, Sahelian countries and other arid and semi-arid areas were experiencing an energy crisis. There appeared to be a large gap between the population’s energy needs—almost exclusively provided by wood—and the capacity of trees and shrubs to meet that need.

At the time, successive years of drought struck the Sahel. Agricultural land extended further and further into marginal zones, whose vegetation was destroyed. It appeared that the vegetation near cities in the Sahel was going to be completely destroyed because of the rapidly growing population’s need for fuelwood.

But, through farmers’ own initiatives and funded projects, many areas experienced—and are still experiencing—an increase in woody vegetation. For example, in Niger, increases in woody vegetation are taking place in the Tahoua, Maradi, and Zinder regions. One study states that FMNR has had a positive impact on at least five million hectares of cultivated land in Niger.

This script discusses FMNR, a practice which consists of protecting and managing re-growth of trees and shrubs in farmers’ fields. Farmers benefit from FMNR because it restores woody vegetation. When they practice FMNR, farmers almost always concentrate on bringing back trees and shrubs with an economic value.

The script is based on interviews with farmers and others who are involved with FMNR.