Reviving trees

TreesLike many countries across the Sahel region, Niger is suffering from lower rainfall. This reduces harvests, because famers rely on annual rains. But trees have proved crucial in helping to reverse this trend.

A global success story

Begun in the 1980s, FMNR has resulted in 5 million hectares of agro-forested land and an estimated 200 million extra trees. Niger is the only country in Africa to have added forest cover over the past two decades and its FMNR is hailed as the most successful reforestation scheme in the world.

Across the country, many groups have been practising farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR), where wild trees in and around fields are not cleared, but coppiced instead. Encouraging these naturally occurring trees helps to bring nitrogen and humus (from fallen leaves) into the ground and stop erosion of topsoil by the wind. Birds, reptiles and amphibians find a home in the trees and act as predators of insects which eat the crops.

Having trees also affects the micro-climate. Farmers report that humidity stays around for longer in fields and tree shade helps lowers temperatures.

Some farmers have been planting trees alongside their crops. This is known as agro-forestry. So for example acacia trees are grown with crops like millet and groundnuts/peanuts. Because the trees are natives of dry conditions, they do not compete for water and help to fertilise the soil. With acacia trees, yields of millet typically increase 2.5 times.