BONN, Germany (Landscape News) — In Burkina Faso, many smallholder farmers rely on tree-based landscapes to deliver vital provisions such as food and nutrition, and act as safety nets at times of crisis.
These farmers are crucial in the effort to tackle land degradation in the Sahel.
Their efforts provide a useful restoration model for a region grappling with socioeconomic changes characterized by a rapid loss of trees, savannah woodlands and biodiversity. In the arid and semi-arid areas of Africa, which loses 2.8 million hectares of forests annually, the livelihoods of many people are increasingly imperiled by these landscape changes.
Climate change has amplified the threats to food, energy, and water security, particularly for the poorest people. Meanwhile, a rise in the number of migrants from northern degraded land areas to less impacted southern provinces has further weakened the social fabric in both regions.
In the country’s Sahelian mosaic landscapes, smallholders have developed local practices over many centuries to manage uncertainty, climate variability and food shortages.
Over time, in collaboration with non-governmental organizations, donors, and research organizations, farmers have tested and improved locally developed sustainable solutions to “re-green” degraded land. For example, in Kadiogo, Kourweogo and Oubritenga provinces in central Burkina Faso, smallholders protect small plots of land from the threat of grazing livestock, and create firebreaks to help ward-off wildfires.
Farmers have improved water availability and soil fertility by combining agroforestry, water, and soil-management practices, “zai” techniques — which involve digging pits in the soil to catch water and concentrate compost — assisting regeneration practices, growing indigenous food and fodder trees, sowing crops in planting pits and building stone contour bunds to capture rainwater runoff.
The protection has allowed trees to flourish, adding to the biodiversity in a semi-arid region affected by various environmental factors, including the loss of indigenous trees and vegetation. Farmers are able to cultivate critical food crops such as nuts and beans. The crops, along with leaves and fodder for animals, can then be consumed or sold for supplemental income. These restored areas especially benefit women, since they are traditionally responsible for securing food for their households.
“It’s given me a new lease on life, even extended life for me,” one farmer using forest landscape restoration (FLR) in Burkina Faso, Bertin Doamba, told Forests News, the online news service of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), co-coordinator of the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF). “We even have our pharmacy in this enclosure, with all the medicinal plants.”
“In fact, those small areas brought multiple benefits to the smallholder households,” says Houria Djoudi, a senior scientist with CIFOR. “The capacity of those families to cope with climatic shocks, particularly droughts, The food security is enhanced through direct consumption and income generation, the burden on women is decreased because women are the first users of eatable tree leaves and fruits and other products in those areas.”
This small bounty is especially critical in Burkina Faso. The country has high-levels of food insecurity, and extended dry seasons can add to food scarcity since much of its agriculture depends on the rainy season.
The positive impact of this farmer led small scale landscape restoration in Burkina Faso is one that can be replicated elsewhere to restore degraded land and enhance reforestation.
Challenges to full-scale implementation continue to provide some obstacles, including around issues of land rights and land ownership. There are also insufficient networks to exchange knowledge, particularly links between stakeholders at the local, national and regional levels.
“To be able to transform landscapes, one of the major challenge for FLR initiatives will be to incorporate successful and locally adapted farmer-led FLR management practices, into policy and programmes at the national and regional levels” Djoudi said.
“Large-scale interventions which failed in the past, might learn from small-scale, farmer- led restoration activities by integrating local practices and innovations, with multiple benefits for communities including food security, adaptive capacity, gender equity and income.”
Find out more about restoration initiatives throughout Africa at the Global Landscapes Forum GLF Nairobi summit, Aug. 29-30, 2018. Click here