News / Africa

Innovative African Farmers Find Going Green More Fruitful

Additional trees in the Sahel result in better crop

Crops grow better when planted near trees.
Crops grow better when planted near trees.

Multimedia

Audio

At a time when forests around the world are falling to make room for crops to feed more and more people, the opposite is happening in parts of Africa’s Sahel.

Farmers in this semi-arid region below the Sahara desert are growing more trees than they did three decades ago and they’re producing more crops and eating better because of it.

This transformation is taking place without much involvement from the usual international development agencies.

Going green

A recent documentary called "The Man Who Stopped the Desert" shows how Burkinabe farmer Yacouba Sawadogo has raised a forest where before there was nothing but barren land.

"Trees have a very important role to plays in nature," he says in the film. "They make rain fall and we can use them for other things as well."



By sharing what he has learned with neighboring farmers, the documentary shows how he and other innovative local farmers are helping to lead a remarkable environmental transformation in parts of the Sahel.

One of the early pioneers to promote this transformation was Tony Rinaudo, today with World Vision Australia, an anti-poverty non-governmental organization. However, Rinaudo says NGOs and international donors have not been the driving force.

"Much of the response has actually come from the farmers and the communities themselves, as opposed to NGOs and the government. Once the farmers have embraced and accepted this technology they’ve practiced it and they’ve shared it with their neighbors and it’s spread from farmer to farmer. So that’s been very exciting."

Aerial photography shows the dramatic increase in trees (in black) on land near Galma, Niger, from 1975 (left) to 2002 (right).
Aerial photography shows the dramatic increase in trees (in black) on land near Galma, Niger, from 1975 (left) to 2002 (right).

Transformation

The results have been most dramatic in Niger, where an estimated five million hectares are greener today than they were three decades ago. That’s an area about the size of Costa Rica.

But farmers are not doing it simply for the love of trees. Crops near trees tend to grow better in Niger's harsh, windswept environment. Trees block the wind. Their leaves fertilize the soil and protect the crop from drought by holding the moisture in the soil.

And that’s especially important in the Sahel, where drought and hunger are regular visitors. Just last year, drought left millions in Niger facing malnutrition.

During another drought in 2005, researchers compared villages where farmers tended trees to those that did not.

"The population of those villages really survive better than those who don’t have trees on their own farm because they can cut wood and take to the big city to sell and get some money to buy cereals," says Mahamane Larwanou of the African Forest Forum. "And also, they use the leaves and the fruits of those tree species just to survive."

Vested interest

If trees provide such clear benefits, then why have so many farmers been cutting them down? Experts say growing population has put pressure on farmers to plow up more land.

But part of the reason dates to French colonial policies which gave the state ownership of all trees and products derived from them. Larwanou says that was a strong disincentive for farmers to protect them.

"Even if you put all your effort into regenerating trees on your own farm, and then you don’t have the right to go and use it, what is the sense of doing that?"

Larwanou says a change in Niger’s forestry policy has helped drive the re-greening of this part of the Sahel.

Burkinabe farmer Yacouba Sawadogo has raised a forest on what used to be barren land.
Burkinabe farmer Yacouba Sawadogo has raised a forest on what used to be barren land.

Shared lessons

Now, some experts are working to bring these lessons to farmers across the continent. As climate change threatens to bury more of the Sahel under shifting sands, they hope to encourage more farmers to re-green their land.

Burkina Faso’s Yacouba Sawadogo is already convinced. "Nobody is looking after our forests. The population has grown, and the forests are suffering. If you cut down 10 trees in a day, and you don’t plant any in a year, then we are heading for destruction."

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid