Nurturing trees for better livelihoods in East Africa
An article in The Guardian looks at how the practice of farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) is helping increase milk production, provide timber and improve soil fertility in East Africa.
With FMNR, farmers allow selected trees to regrow on their land. They protect and prune these trees which help to improve the condition of the soil, prevent erosion and water loss, and increase biodiversity.
“This can translate into increased crop yields, more timber for firewood and better incomes for farmers,” says the article.
One such farmer is Stephen Tumhaire from the central Nakasongola district of Uganda. He received training through the FMNR for east Africa project, funded by World Vision Australia and the Australian government, and supported by the World Agroforestry Centre through research and evaluation.
In Tumhaire’s district, increasing demand for charcoal in nearby towns and villages has led to increased deforestation where once “there were very many trees, there was much grass and cows, hence abundant milk,” he says.
By practicing FMNR, Tumhaire has seen an increase in the growth of pasture grass and now sells 7 litres of milk each day, the rest of which is consumed by his children.
Another farmer from the same district, Florence Namembwa, says FMNR means wood is easier to find for cooking and boiling water. This means she now has time for other activities, such as working in the vegetable garden.
“My children can now concentrate on doing their homework since they don’t have to look for firewood anymore,” says Namembwa.
Farmers Jackson Mwangi from Nakuru County in Kenya has seen a dramatic increase in maize production since he started practicing FMNR. “I can’t believe that the piece of land that used to give me eight bags of maize three years ago is now producing up to 25 bags,” he says
Tony Rinaudo, an FMNR pioneer who works with World Vision Australia, says the technique is cheap, based on community knowledge and it promotes the regeneration of indigenous vegetation. When the practice involves nitrogen-fixing tree species, it is particularly valuable in providing organic fertilizer that improves the health of soils and increases crop production.
According the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya, John Feakes, his government has injected $1.5 million into the project, helping to support 160,000 farmers, 60,000 of whom are women.
Read the full story: East African farmers rewarded for letting grass grow under their feet
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