Farmers in Niger benefit from letting trees grow in their fields

| September 2, 2019

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Like this week’s Farmer story from Burkina Faso and this week’s Resource, our Script of the week focuses on agroforestry, and more specifically on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, or FMNR.

In the 1970s and 80s, much was written on the energy crisis in Sahelian countries and in other arid and semi-arid areas. 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 that time, the Sahel had been struck by successive years of drought. 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 due to the rapidly growing population’s need for fuelwood.

But currently, there are many areas which are experiencing an increase in woody vegetation. For example, in Niger, increases in woody vegetation are taking place in the Tahoua, Maradi, and Zinder regions. In Tahoua, tree planting has been organized by projects focusing on the rehabilitation of barren lands, while farmers also began protecting trees and shrubs which have grown back naturally. At the same time, livestock farmers are protecting natural vegetation such as the tree species, Acacia raddiana.

In Maradi, NGOs helped farmers to protect and manage trees and shrubs which regenerated spontaneously on their farms. This process began in the mid-1980s. More recently, a project in the Aguié district supports the creation of village organizations to protect, manage, and use on-farm trees. In Zinder, a large-scale farmer accomplished natural regeneration.

This script discusses Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). FMNR is a practice undertaken by farmers which consists of protecting and managing re-growth of trees and shrubs in fields. FMNR benefits farmers by bringing back woody vegetation. Farmers almost always concentrate on bringing back trees and shrubs with an economic value.

It is surprising to learn that farmer-managed and protected natural regeneration in crop fields has received little attention. Very few national and international decision-makers are aware of it, and there are only a few publications on the topic. But one study states that Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration has had a positive impact on at least five million hectares of cultivated land in Niger. If this is accurate, it is unique in the Sahel and probably in Africa as a whole.

This script is based on actual interviews. You could use this script as inspiration to research and write a script on a similar topic in your area. Or you might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.