In various countries in the Sahel, vast tracts of land have been restored by the local population by nurturing what spontaneously springs from the soil and protecting the sprouts from cattle and hazards.
Today, 41% of the global land area is covered by “drylands” such as deserts, grasslands and savannahs, and this area is ever expanding. The majority of the people who live in these drylands are dependent on natural resources, on land cultivation and on livestock-rearing. Healthy ecosystems, land and natural resources are therefore critical for dryland populations. However, some 70% of the world’s drylands are affected by degradation.
Land degradation in the Sahel
In the drylands of the Sahel, land degradation is one of the biggest threats to the traditional livelihoods of millions of people. In Niger, Burkina Faso and Senegal, countries which are highly affected by droughts and food insecurity, the loss of productive and fertile land threatens the livelihoods of both farming communities and pastoralists.
Unsustainable agricultural practices, notably the cultivation of non-indigenous and irrigated crops, as well as overgrazing, are major drivers of land degradation. This process is exacerbated by changes in climate that cause even more erratic rainfall patterns, longer periods of drought and unpredictable growing seasons. As a result, conflicts between farmers and pastoralists over access to water, land use for cultivation and grazing grounds are intensifying, to which the current policy frameworks do not have an effective answer.
Turning the tide
However, there are promising initiatives to turn the tide. In various countries in the Sahel, vast tracts of land have been restored by the local population by nurturing what spontaneously springs from the soil and protecting the sprouts from cattle and hazards. Both ENDS and local partners in Niger, Senegal and Burkina Faso support this ‘Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR)’ which enables the tree and shrub vegetation to recover. This successful low-cost, low-technology and farmer-led method enhances local food security and ecological stability in the long run. The ownership lies with local people through the establishment of Village Committees, which form the backbone of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration. With this 10-year programme, Both ENDS and our local partners aim to create all the necessary conditions for a snowball effect for Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration on a large scale in these three countries, as the ‘proof of concept’ has already been delivered there.
An important factor for successfully introducing Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration in the community, is an agreement between village farmers and other land users like cattle herders and nomadic populations on land use and the protection of seedlings from ‘cattle & axe’, especially during the first period of 3 to 4 years. The reward is a growing resource cake for all, with reciprocal benefits: pastoralists gain access to more biomass (fodder), while the farmers gain access to the herds’ manure (droppings left behind).
Government support & market access
Effective Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration the Sahel also requires, besides the adoption of methods by local land users, an enabling environment in terms of governance and access to markets. By having local authorities participating in the training sessions, organising field visits for them and update councillors and village chiefs on the progress of the FMNR-activities, local formal and customary policy-makers get involved in the project activities, and are more likely to support and adopt these initiatives.
The programme 'Growing buffers to ensure food security, livelihoods and biodiversity Programme 2017-2027' is funded by DOB Ecology.
Within this programme, Both ENDS will keep doing what it does best: connecting local organisations to each other and to relevant national and international policy makers, scientists and organisations, informing them about current (inter)national developments relevant to their work, and advocating the incorporation of this method in local and national policies.
Together with our local partners, within the next 10 years we aim to reach the following:
1) A total area of 200,000 hectares divided over three countries) has been restored using Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration by and for communities.
2) There are laws, policies and support programmes in place in three countries (local up to international) that support Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration.
3) Farmers applying Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration are organised and have access to markets for (added-value) FMNR-products.
Read more about this subject
Rich Forests promotes a sustainable and future-proof production system and supports, among other things, the transformation of degraded land into food forests. With this, people provide for their livelihood, increase their income and at the same time restore soil and biodiversity.
Small grants funds offer an effective, alternative way to channel big money from large donors and funds to local groups and organisations that are striving for a sustainable and just society everywhere around the world.
External link / 31 May 2018
Many people in the desertifying Sahel region have to choose: claim their land back from the desert, or leave their farms behind. In 2017, Both ENDS started a new project here, introducing a method for regreening the landscape: Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR). It has proven itself in Niger, where we worked on FMNR for 15 years. By 2017, 15.000 ha of dryland had been regreened.
Event / 14 April 2018
On the 14th of April, Both ENDS wil host a workshop called 'Small Grants, Big Impacts' on the annual Africa day in Amsterdam. The workshop aims to demonstrate that so called 'small grants funds' effectively deliver (devopment and climate) money where it matters, to people that need it the most. Large development banks, funds, donors and governments could use small grants funds as alternative financing mechanisms to make sure their money benefits people and their environment now and it the far future.
Publication / 30 June 2016