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.
Communities Regreen the Sahel
The current programme 'Communities Regreen the Sahel - Growing buffers to ensure food security, livelihoods and biodiversity Programme 2017-2027' is funded by DOB Ecology. More information about the programme can be found here: Communities Regreen the Sahel
More information about the method
This infographic tells shows the method in a nutshell.
This brochure about Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration explains more details about the method.
Read more about this subject
Both ENDS works with partners around the world to ensure that land is governed fairly and inclusively and managed sustainably with priority for the rights and interests of local communities.
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.
Globally, the area that is suffering desertification and land degradation is ever expanding. Unsustainable and often large-scale agricultural practices, including the copious use of pesticides and fertilisers, are a major driver of land degradation, aprocess that is further exacerbated by climate change, causing more erratic rainfall patterns, longer periods of drought and unpredictable growing seasons. This is very problematic not only for the hundreds of millions of people who directly depend on land and water for their livelihoods, but also for life on earth as a whole. It is clear that this process must be stopped and reversed, better sooner than later. But how to go about it?
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 / 19 June 2020
In the first two years of the programme "Communities Regreen the Sahel", more than 10,000 farmers have been trained in Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration and the practice has expanded to more than 44,000 ha. Moreover, the number of agreements by farmers and nomadic pastoralists has increased significantly, which is important to avoid conflict over land use.
Publication / 23 December 2019
Event / 6 September 2019, 13:00 - 15:00
At the UNCCD COP14 in India, which is taking place from 2-13 September 2019, Both ENDS is co-organising a number of side events.
News / 16 August 2019
Today, an op-ed by Nathalie van Haren and Stefan Schüller was published in the Dutch national newspaper De Volkskrant about the IPCC's latest report "Climate Change and Land". Below you find the English translation.
External link / 29 May 2019
Even as climate change intensifies these challenging conditions, the Sahel need not become a desert. Unsustainable agricultural practices and overgrazing are among the main factors causing land degradation in the Sahel, which is threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Fortunately, organisations like CRESA in Niger have shown that with the right approach, desertification of the Sahel can be reversed.
Event / 13 April 2019, 14:15 - 15:30
On Saturday April 13th, the annual Africa day will take place in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam.
Both ENDS and Voice 4 Thought will organise a joint workhop (in English), titled:
'Positive vibes from the Sahel: from regreening to slam poetry'
Facilitator: Andrew Makkinga
The Sahel region from Chad to Senegal is often seen in the Netherlands as an immensely dry, infertile area where extremists and smugglers serve and where hunger thrives. But there is so much more to tell about the Sahel region.
Over the last decades, a large number of positive social initiatives have been taken up both in the cities and in rural areas. Initiatives that create and stimulate self-esteem, culture, education, climate resilience and prosperity.
Young people are often the driving force behind these movements, which is not surprising considering that almost 70 percent of the population in a country like Niger is under the age of 25.
In this workshop Both ENDS and Voice4Thought want to tell the other story of the Sahel by highlighting some of these positive initiatives, and by showing how they are interlinked and part of a larger, bottom up movement in this area.
Hope to see you there!
Publication / 8 April 2019
Publication / 29 January 2019
Publication / 28 January 2019
News / 23 November 2018
Today, the Right Livelihood Awards 2018 will be presented in Stockholm. One of the four people who will receive the prize this year is Yacouba Sawadogo, 'the man who stopped the desert'. Yacouba, a farmer from Yatenga, Burkina Faso, is one of the founders of so-called 'Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration' with which degenerated and dry areas are becoming green and fertile again. According to Both ENDS, Yacouba's award is very well-deserved!
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, 11:30
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