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Reforestation means better food security

Communities in Mali are putting their hopes in techniques such as Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration and soil preservation practices to put a stop to persistent food insecurity

Farmers in the Barakolombougou village, Mali, prepare compost as part of FMNR and soil preservation practices.

“Last season we were able to harvest only half our usual needs of food and right now many families are struggling," says Fragnan Coulibaly, president, village committee for Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) practice – Barakolombougou, Kolokani district, Mali.

The 62-year-old father of 14 knows well the struggle with bad harvests and he is working to change that. FMNR means helping naturally-occurring trees to return to the landscape to help to keep the soil from washing away, to shade crops and to help the land to hold water, thus improving resilience among farmers.

Tony Rinaudo, research and development advisor, Food Security and Climate Change – WV Australia, is one of the biggest proponents of FMNR.

Mr Rinaudo’s inspiration first came in 1983 when he was with Serving in Mission in Niger. He had been encouraging villagers to grow trees using traditional reforestation techniques, which met with little success in Niger’s harsh environment.

In a March, 2007 Connections article, Mr Rinaudo said: “One day I was driving to the villages and I was very frustrated. I stopped the car and looked out across the barren field. I prayed, ‘Lord, we’ve destroyed the beautiful creation you’ve given us. Forgive us.’ And I asked God for guidance.

“Then I noticed something. Looking out across what I thought was desert there were all these little shrubs that I had seen before but hadn’t known what they were.

“Upon closer inspection, I realised that they were the stumps of felled trees. Being adapted to the harsh environment, the trees were able to re-sprout from the roots. I realised that we need never plant a tree again.

“I learned that, if allowed to, these trees would re-grow and were hardy enough not to require constant protection and watering. All we had to do was to convince the farmers to prune these sprouts and let them grow, and that was the battle.”

According to Mr Coulibaly in Mali, after a few trainings, communities begin to realise that their food insecurity is not only linked to lack of rain but to the way they are managing their cropland.

The 16 communities in the resiliency project in Mali are also learning about soil improvement practices such as the use of compost.

Mahamane Sanogo, project coordinator and trainer – WV Mali, says that "right after the demonstration, several attendees immediately started to practice the new techniques in their farms. […] Soon the trained farmers could replicate the acquired knowledge in the neighbouring communities.”

This means that what is now a standard practice in Niger could become standard in Mali as well.

by S. C.
07 october 2013, World News > Africa