Zinder: farmer-managed natural regeneration of Sahelian parklands in Niger

  • West African woodlands continue to lose tree cover but semi-arid farmlands gain trees
  • Farmer-managed natural regeneration has replaced the ‘wait and see’ of fallow regrowth of the past
  • Key to the increase in farmer interest has been the change of the forest code and its enforcement (first de facto, then formal)
  • Further integration of with crops and livestock and product markets will be needed as next steps.

There is little doubt that a remarkable ‘regreening’ has taken place in part of the Sahel in recent decades. After severe episodes of drought and famine in the 1970s and 80s, that caused massive crop and livestock losses, and human migration and mortality, a process of agroforestation on more than 5 million hectares of farmlands has ‘regreened’ the southern part of Niger. This has had major positive consequences in improving crop and livestock productivity, and it has enhanced the resilience of these agricultural systems to drought and temperature extremes in the face of climate change. The practice of farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR; Box 9.1) of trees on farmlands is now accelerating across all of the Sahelian countries. Currently, trees occupy 16% of the total area of croplands in the semi-arid and subhumid zones of the Sahel, and 23% in the West Africa savannas. Nearly 100% of this tree cover is a result of the practice of FMNR by the millions of small-scale farmers of the region. The how and why of this regreening process has been an interaction of actors, policy changes, behavioural changes and practices. This chapter examines current understanding of the drivers of change, the change itself and its implications for the future of agriculture in the drylands of the Sahelian region and beyond.

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