Niger: Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration has re-vegetated 3 million hectares

There was a post here yesterday titled: Imagine what the world would look like if we didn’t prune trees so much?

So now as a follow up I ask you: Imagine creating a forest out of shrubs by pruning too much?

The obstacles working against reforestation are enormous. But a new
method of reforestation called Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration
(FMNR) could change this situation. It has already done so in the
Republic of Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, where more than
3 million hectares have been re-vegetated using this method. Farmer
Managed Natural Regeneration involves selecting and pruning stems
regenerating from stumps of previously felled, but still living trees.

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Sustainability is a key feature of the programme which requires very
little investment by either government or NGOs to keep it going. The
story in Niger can offer valuable insights and lessons for other
nations. The almost total destruction of trees and shrubs in the
agricultural zone of Niger between the 1950s and 1980s had devastating
consequences. Deforestation worsened the adverse effects of recurring
drought, strong winds, high temperatures, infertile soils and pests
and diseases on crops and livestock. Combined with rapid population
growth and poverty, these problems contributed to chronic hunger and
periodic acute famine. Back in 1981, the whole country was in a state
of severe environmental degradation, an already harsh land turning to
desert, and a people under stress. More and more time was spent
gathering poorer and poorer quality firewood and building materials.
Women had to walk for miles for fuel such as small sticks and millet

Tony Rinaudo, Natural Resource Management Specialist, World Vision:
“Then one day I understood that what appeared to be desert shrubs were
actually trees which were re-sprouting from tree stumps, felled during
land clearing. In that moment of inspiration I realised that there was
a vast, underground forest present all along and that it was
unnecessary to plant trees at all. All that was needed was to convince
farmers to change the way they prepared their fields. The method of
reforestation that developed is called Farmer Managed Natural
Regeneration (FMNR). Each year, live tree stumps sprout multiple
shoots. In practising FMNR the farmer selects the stumps she wants to
leave and decides how many shoots are wanted per stump. Excess shoots
are then cut and side branches trimmed to half way up the stems.

A good farmer will return regularly for touch up prunings and thereby stimulate faster growth rates. The method is not new, it is simply a form of coppicing and pollarding, which has a history of over 1000 years in Europe. It was new, however, to many farmers in Niger who traditionally viewed trees on farmland as “weeds” which needed to be eliminated because they compete with food crops.” What most entities working in reforestation have failed to recognise is that vast areas of cleared agricultural land in Africa retain an “underground forest” of living stumps and roots. By simply changing agricultural practices, this underground forest can re-sprout, at little cost, very rapidly and with great beneficial impact.

In other words, in many instances the costly, time consuming and inefficient methods of raising seedlings, planting them out and protecting them is not even necessary for successful reforestation. Presumably, the same principle would apply anywhere in the world where tree and shrub species have the ability to re-sprout after being harvested. Farmer managed natural regeneration is a cheap and rapid method of re-vegetation, which can be applied over large areas of land and can be adapted to a range of land use systems. It is simple and can be adapted to each individual farmer’s unique requirements, providing multiple benefits to people, livestock, crops and the environment, including physical, economic and social benefits to humans.

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Comments (3)

Dennis FritzingerMarch 22nd, 2009 at 3:17 pm

nothing goes to waste

in the land of niger,
where giraffes grow tall,
and the people have little
or nothing at all,

every day is full,
each challenge is faced,
and the reason is simple:
nothing goes to waste.

if there’s food left over,
then it’s food you share
(though most of the time
there’s little food there–

just a few staples,
like millet and such),
and no one goes hungry,
or hungry, much.

to wipe your mouth,
you won’t believe–
instead of a napkin,
you use your sleeve,

and instead of a fork
you use your hand–
which is something that long ago
nature planned.

at the end of the day
you know you’ve been graced–
and it gets back to nothing
ever goes to waste.

Mary Sahel EcoAugust 13th, 2009 at 2:12 am

Not just in Niger… Mali too

Community manage natural regeneration of trees in the Sahel, Africa: In the Mopti region of Mali which lies in the Sahel region of West Africa villages are faced with problems resulting from deforestation and land degradation. In response to this several NGOs have been working together to raise awareness of a proven method which regenerates the land to be productive and full of resources….. continues at

Arineitwe EnockNovember 10th, 2009 at 6:14 am

There is potential for the practice in northern Uganda, WV should introduce it there. It is indeed cheap and sustainable.

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