Communities Regreen the Sahel

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.

Protecting seedlings

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. 

Should you want more information about regreening the Sahel and/or other regions, please contact Fiona Dragstra or Stefan Schüller.  


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Farmer using traditional pruning techniques in Niger

Farmer using traditional pruning techniques in Niger
(Farmer using traditional pruning techniques in Niger (admin), 18/06/2018)