Agroforestry project wins Land for Life Award

FMNR_NigerA project that has seen drought-affected communities in Niger and Burkina Faso invest in agroforestry and protect over 5 million hectares of farmland has come second in the Land for Life Awards.

Through 3 decades of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) in Niger, half of the country’s farmland has been transformed. The land now produces triple the yield, feeding an extra 2.5 million people annually and doubling farmers’ incomes.

The 2013 Land for Life Awards were announced in Belgium on 17 June, the World Day to Combat Desertification. This is the second year the prize has been awarded, recognizing innovative community initiatives that can be replicated to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable and affected populations.

The first prize award of USD 40,000 went to Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), a non-governmental organization in India. Sharing second place were World Vision Australia for popularizing FMNR in the Sahel region in Africa and Consejo Civil Mexicano para la Silvicultura Sostenible (CCMSS) from Mexico for its work in the Amanalco Valle Bravo Basin in central Mexico.

The organization Rehabilitation of Arid Environments in Kenya also received special mention from the jury for their achievements in drylands area of Baringo County, helping rural communities to regenerate degraded land.

FMNR is now practiced in in eight countries in Africa and three in Asia. It began with just 12 farmers in the Maradi district of Niger, an area where crops are regularly hit by treacherous 60 – 70 km/hour winds, where high temperatures and low humidity give young plants little or no chance of survival.

The beauty of FMNR lies in its simplicity and ability to completely transform barren landscapes. All that farmers need to do is leave the land alone and wait for trees to regenerate from remnant tree root systems. Once trees reach a certain height, periodic pruning is required but no fertilizer or water needs to be added. The farmers are effectively just catalyzing a process that is managed by nature.

Communities today are benefiting from abundant edible wild fruits, leaves and tubers. There is firewood available close by and fodder for livestock. In some areas, wildlife has begun to return.

FMNR has also transformed communities into forest guardians, preventing and stopping bushfires and destruction of the forest and facilitating its rehabilitation.

Among the independent jury who picked the Land for Life Award winners was Dr Dennis Garrity, former executive director of the World Agroforestry Center and UN Drylands Ambassador.

“We are recognizing organizations that have innovated techniques that have jumped the gap and are being applied with large scale impacts and potential for replicability globally as well as nationally,” said Garrity.

“Each of these initiatives has engaged thousands of rural people and they work at the community level, motivating smallholder farming households to actively engage as stewards of the soil.”

The awards were announced during the Conference on Desertification and Land Degradation by Mr. Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).

“Becoming a drought-resilient global society is not only possible and affordable, it must be our first and only option,” said Gnacadja.

He called for policies to attract investments that will scale-up successful drought mitigation activities now rather than leaving it to costly relief efforts in the future.

“These three winners exemplify the type of leadership and initiatives that make the difference at the grassroots level,” said Gnacadja. “They improve livelihoods while fostering good land stewardship. Much of what they offer is simple, but transformational.”

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Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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