Towards a Green Economy

By Isaiah Esipisu

A homestead in Niger

One way of ensuring a green economy especially in Africa is by embracing the system of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration of Resources (FMNR) delegates attending the RIO +20 conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil learnt.

“This is a huge success story, where farmers have managed to reverse deforestation on their own, and  have also managed to turn lands perceived to be barren into regenerated arable land using limited resources,” said Dr Garrity, the former Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre.

FMNR is a reforestation technique which originated from West Africa, and is today practised on thousands of hectares of land in the Niger Republic as well as Chad, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mali, and now spreading to the East African region.

In this system, farmers take advantage of the remaining live tree and shrub roots, where they crop them, giving the natural material a second chance to re-grow. It is merely the selection and pruning of stems which sprout from indigenous tree and shrub stumps.

According to Dr Garrity, in Niger alone,  there are 5 million hectares of FMNR agroforests spread on crop lands. The forests have enhanced fodder production, they produce fuelwood for the people, and they provide a source of timber for income generation and for domestic use. This has happened over a period of 20 years, and it is accelerating.

“Looking at such successes, it gives people energy to really believe that it can be done. This put together with land movements like Landcare International, which helps people to work jointly on a political scale, and governments responding to this and applying the negotiated solutions at the global level, it is clear that the green economy can be achieved,” Dr Garrity told fellow experts at the RIO +20 conference.

However, he points out that it was disappointing that agroforestry was not emphasised in the RIO +20 declaration.

“We thought that it was clear enough that agroforestry and the EverGreen agriculture is a way forward for the green economy agenda. It is so simple, so low cost, has limited risks, and is so diffusible that that if the governments would take it up, it would help millions of farmers move forward in their own farming operations at very limited costs,” he said.

But despite  the disappointments, the RIO +20 document has one major declaration, which experts say it is a move in a positive direction. The declaration points out that the UN will now develop a new set of sustainable development goals that will go beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

“But in order to succeed with this important declaration, it will be important for these goals to be developed by people who really have the knowledge, people who care, and people who have the dedication, rather than lawyers and individuals who will end up negotiating it into oblivion,” said the scientist.

“The sustainable development goals should be concrete, easy for everybody to understand, and acceptable to the majority,” he added.

He points out that most of the negotiated treaties are not easy to understand, to a point that people on the ground do not relate with them. “This has always been the weakness in all the RIO conventions.”

However, he says that the aspiration in the entire RIO +20 document is fantastic, only that the commitments are not really concrete. “We need to define how we will do what has been declared, when, and who is going to finance it,” said Dr Garrity.

One of the components the expert say he is impressed about the document is that there was a great deal of text about women empowerment, indigenous communities, the poor, and about democracy and human rights.

See related article

The Baffling Simplicity of FMNR

Only out of the box practices can “green” Africa

Isaiah Esipisu is a freelance journalist who was contracted by ICRAF to write this story.

Edited by Yvonne Otieno

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