Farmers in Niger benefit from letting trees grow in their fields

    | August 24, 2009

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    This week’s script completes our introduction to Farm Radio International’s latest script package. The package focuses on livestock health, but also includes scripts on rice growing and environmental themes.

    This script features an interview with Ali Micko, the president of a group of Nigerien villagers. Mr. Micko describes how local farmland became severely degraded in the 1960s and 1970s, and how farmers took action to rehabilitate the land. They began preserving and planting trees – a practice that, over the years, has made agriculture profitable and communities food secure.

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    All scripts from the new package can be found online, here: By clicking on script titles, you can read or download individual scripts. Or, you can download the entire script package by following this link:

    Notes to broadcaster

    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 this 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 fuel wood.

    Currently, it is thought that vegetation in the Sahel is declining from overuse by the population. While this is obviously happening in some parts of the Sahel, 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.


    I interviewed Mr. Ali Micko, who has been involved with the project in the Aguié district of the Maradi region.

    Hello, Mr. Micko. My name is Lawali Mamane Nassourou from the NGO Le Micro Vert. Our interview today will focus on FMNR. Can you start by introducing yourself?

    Ali: My name is Ali Micko, and I am a farmer and President of a group of villagers in Dan Saga.

    Host: When did you start to notice the degeneration of vegetation in your fields?

    Ali: The vegetation began to decline in the 1960s, and it reached its climax in the 1970s. The deterioration was mainly caused by destroying all the trees and by abandoning the practice of leaving the land fallow.

    Host: What caused you to change your farming practices?

    Ali: The situation became challenging for all farmers. Land had become unfarmable, sand covered our crops, and fuel wood or multi-purpose trees were rare. We changed our farming practices to leave young trees in the fields. This idea was supported by a project organized by CARE International.

    Host: How did you change your farming practices?

    Ali: At some point in time, everyone realized the importance of leaving young trees or saplings in the fields. Farmers began to adopt these improved clearing practices with the support of the project. We also cared for young shoots and the young plants that regrow on the roots of older trees. Besides this, we created a nursery with local tree species such as Hyphaene thebaica, Acacia albida, and Parkia biglobosa (Editor’s note: see local names at the end of the script). We also started using tree litter – dead leaves, bark and branches that have fallen to the ground – as mulch.

    Host: When did you see that these efforts were having a positive impact on the vegetation in your fields?

    Ali: Our efforts go back 25 years, but they were adopted on a wider scale about 18 years ago.

    Host: What have the impacts been on your crops?

    Ali: At the time when vegetation was completely destroyed, millet yield per hectare was only 90-120 kilograms or about 13-17 bunches. But now, with increased vegetation, we can get 315 to 455 kilograms per hectare. If we use a mineral fertilizer, yields can reach 700 kilograms per hectare.

    Host: How has Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration affected your income?

    Ali: Agriculture is now profitable. Trees provide fodder for animals, wood for sale, for fuel and for building. During the food crisis from 1999-2000, most households here were able to survive, thanks to the sale of wood.

    Host: What have the impacts been on the work done by women?

    Ali: With increased vegetation, men cut wood in their fields and carry it to their homes using carts bought with the income from farming, forestry and raising animals. So women have much less work finding, cutting and carrying wood. Also, part of the income from the sale of wood is used to buy water and grind grains. Previously, women would have done this work.

    Host: How do you manage this new wealth?

    Ali: Since the beginning of this new approach, we have had a supervisory committee of both men and women. The committee is in charge of monitoring the efforts made by farmers and reporting to village chiefs when people violate community rules on how to treat the fields. When the trees grew taller, we formed a management committee, which brought together a few villages in the Dan Saga area. With support from IFAD and the government environmental services, the committee opened a rural market for wood, managed by the community. Income from this market is divided into shares that are invested in FMNR, the community, government environmental services and the committee. The market is supported by wood purchased from villagers who sell the trees in their fields.

    Host: Thank you, Ali, for doing this interview, and for sharing your experiences with us.

    Ali: We thank you for coming here and showing an interest in our way of life.



    Contributed by: Sanoussi Mayana, Prèsident de lONG RDD Le Micro Vert, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
    Reviewed by: Chris Reij, Center for International Cooperation, VU University, Amsterdam.

    Common names for tree species mentioned in the script

    Acacia raddiana, also known as Acacia tortilis:
    Arabic: talh, sayal, hares
    English: umbrella thorn
    Fula: chilluki
    Kanuri: kindil
    Kouka: garatt
    Mauritania: tamat
    Swahili: munga
    Toucouleu: bakan tchili,
    Wolof: sandandour

    Hyphaene thebaica:
    Amharic: zembaba
    Arabic: dom
    English: gingerbread tree. doum palm
    Swahili: mkoma
    Tigrigna: arkobkobai, kambash

    Acacia albida, also known as Faidherbia albida:
    Afrikaans: anaboom
    Amharic: grar
    Arabic: afrar, harac, haraz
    Bambara: casala
    English: winter thorn, apple ring thorn tree, apple ring acacia, ana tree, white thorn,
    French: arbre blanc, kad
    Ndebele: npumbu
    Portuguese: espinheiro-de-angola, espinneiro
    Sepedi: mogabo
    Setswana: mokosho
    Shona: mutsangu
    Swahili: mgunga, mkababu
    Tigrigna: aqba, garsha, momona
    Venda: muhoto
    Wolof: cad
    Zulu: umHlalankwazi

    Parkia biglobosa:
    Bambara: nere
    Diola: enokay
    English: African locust bean tree, nitta nut, monkey cutlass tree
    French: arbre à farine, mimosa pourpre, néré, néré (Senegal)
    Gourmantché: budugu
    Hausa: dadawa, dawa dawa
    Kanuri: runo
    Mandinka: nér, nété, netto
    Swahili: mkunde, mnienze
    Mooré: duaga or ruaga
    Portuguese: farroba
    Wolof: houlle

    Program undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)