Technologies for land restoration showcased

Crops planted in half moon zai pit after a downpour of rainfall. Photo: World Agroforestry

With Africa lagging behind in efforts to restore 100 million hectares of degraded land, widespread use of innovative technologies is critical for success.

Land degradation leads to declines in soil fertility and the loss of productivity and ecosystem services. Many technologies are being tested to restore degraded land, mitigate climate change and increase the resilience of rural populations.

Jules Bayala, leader of the Integrated Farm and Household Management flagship of the CGIAR Research Programme on Grains, Legumes and Dryland Cereals

Some of the technologies were showcased by the CGIAR Research Program on Grain, Legumes and Dryland Cereals (CRP-GLDC)at the Beating Famine Sahel conference (26–28 February 2019 in Bamako, Mali).

The showcase, Land Restoration for GLDC Crops Productionand Food and Nutrition Security, focused on ways to improve the food access, nutrition and livelihoods of rural populations in arid and semi-arid zones.

The technologies presented represent a paradigm shift toward sustainable production for resilience of landscapes and livelihoods, increased yields, improved land and water management, the use of new drought-resistant crop varieties, and better profitability.

Larwanou Mahamane of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid

Tropics (ICRISAT) noted that the aim of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative of the African Union in Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to restore 9.6 million hectares by 2030 was a low figure to reach for in the 100 million hectares aimed at by the Initiative. This was especially so given projected demographic increases. He reflected on efforts in meeting Land Degradation Neutrality and what could be the best policy options to make restoration politically and economically attractive to speed and expand the process.

Audience listens as Dr Larwanou Mahamane, ICRISAT, speaks on making land restoration politically and economically feasible. Photo: World Agroforestry

Dougbedji Fatondji, also of ICRISAT, discussed the use in Niger of bio-reclamation, a system developed by ICRISAT, as a promising option that allowed women to increase their incomes and improve nutritional balance in daily diets, especially during post-harvest and dry periods. It is an integrated system that uses degraded land for production of rain-fed fruit trees and vegetables.

Staff and partners of World Agroforestry Sahel discussed findings from surveys on the importance of GLDC crops and fruit trees in food, nutrition and income generation in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso that showed disparities between the sexes in consumption of, and benefits from, non-timber forest products.

Ordinary zai pits in Burkina Faso. Photo: World Agroforestry

Team members of the Drylands Development Programme (DryDev)showcased successful technologies that led to youth returning from mining to agriculture in Burkina Faso. These included land-management options, such as 1) an improved rectangular ‘zaï’ (small holes dug in lines in a field at spacing of about 80 cm with compost added with soil); 2) half-moons (a form of bocage, an integrated agrosylvopastoral system combining several technologies of rainwater and fertility management and optimal exploitation of diversification and crop rotation); 3) vegetative contour bunds combined with micro-dosing offertilizer; 4) Sahelian bocage (focusing on control of water to achieve zero runoff); 5) tree-planting techniques (such as special ways of planting fruit trees in dry areas); and 6) improved germplasm of fruit trees.

The team also explained that land restoration in the Sahel was more likely to deploy GLDC crops, such as millet, sorghum, cowpea, and peanut, which were staple foods and income generators. Accordingly, DryDevand similar initiatives needed to align their outputs with the four pillars of food security: availability, accessibility; use; and stability. Strategies that encourage such an alignment are lacking and should be developed, bringing together all stakeholders so as to be able to expand the scale of restoration more rapidly and successfully. There is also a strong need for both intensification and specialization that suit the circumstances of specific regions.

Harvest of sorghum planted in zai pits in Mali. Photo: World Agroforestry

Two main recommendations emerged from the session: 1) promote networks of producers and others linked with microfinance providers and training of trainers for expanding the scale of proven restoration innovations; and 2) national and international research institutes need to provide clear metrics for measuring sustainability and resilience at various scales.

Also read

Land restoration for GLDC crops production and food and nutrition security

Beating Famine turns its attention to the Sahel


The CGIAR Research Program on Grain, Legumes and Dryland Cereals aims to increase the productivity, profitability, resilience and marketability of critical and nutritious grain, legumes and cereals within the semi-arid and sub-humid dryland agro-ecologies of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. More than 40 participants, including policy makers, scientists, extension agents and farmers attended the session.

The Beating Famine conference series is organized by World Agroforestry, World Vision, EverGreening Global Alliance and Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration.


World Agroforestry (ICRAF) is a centre of scientific and development excellence that harnesses the benefits of trees for people and the environment. Knowledge produced by ICRAF enables governments, development agencies and farmers to utilize the power of trees to make farming and livelihoods more environmentally, socially and economically sustainable at multiple scales. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.'

Fidelia Bohissou

Fidélia Bohissou was the Communication officer for the Drylands Development (DryDev) Programme based in Burkina Faso. She provided communication support at all levels of the programme including implementation of the communication strategy, coordination of field visits, production of communication materials and liaison with the DryDev partners on programme communication. With over seven years' experience in communication, Fidélia holds a Masters’ Degree in Communication for Development and a Masters’ Degree in project management.

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