Desertification is the process by which soil degrades through losing water or its ability to hold water, which turns it into dust and sand. This process has been occurring throughout the world at different paces and for different reasons. Poor farming practices and over use of land is a common cause of desertification. Another is the deforestation of large swathes of land. In poorer regions of the world, these two factors compound issues affecting land management and have led to rapid desertification and loss of fauna and flora. The issues can be looked at through the lens of a poverty trap; farmers overwork land to feed more mouths, populations grow requiring more food and materials, forests are cleared away for both, leading to soil degradation, which leads to more pressing need to overwork land. Such a cycle inevitably leads to extreme hunger and poverty. Reforestation projects aim to tackle this problem by replanting forests and using educational initiatives to change local attitudes and behavior concerning forests. These programs are often expensive and deliver mixed results.
Upon the discovery of a vast network of budding tree roots across Niger, Tony Rinaudo has developed a unique approach to nurturing their growth into trees. Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) relies on the presence of tree stumps in an area. Tree stumps naturally sprout stems that would grow into other trees, but farmers have often see these as competitors to their crops and have cut them. FMNR teaches farmers how to nurture the growth of stems and manage their growth in a mutually beneficial manner. By managing the growth of trees, farmers benefit through shade and cover for their crops from sun and strong winds. Trees also encourage the return of pest-eating birds. They help to retain water in the soil and provide farmers with a useful natural resource.
The use of FMNR has resulted in the reforestation of 1.25 million trees per year in Niger, making it the only African country with rapid reforestation. In 1999, Tony Rinaudo joined with World Vision Australia to promote the use of FMNR across Africa and Asia. WV has been employing FMNR “in 16 countries with 9 more countries planned for 2014 including Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Ethiopia.” FMNR is an invaluable tool in the fight against food security and for the conservation of our ecosystems. Tony Rinaudo has been nominated for the Guardian’s International Development Achievement Award for his work with FMNR.
To learn more about the technique and approaches click here.