Southern Niger’s Tree of Food

Southern Niger’s Tree of Food Image from World Agroforestry Centre

Southern Niger’s Tree of Food

By / Agriculture / Monday, 23 July 2018 00:05

In 1998 when France won the World Cup, I also scored a major victory. Twenty years later, I am now all over the place in Southern Niger. To be precise I can now be found in Sothern Niger’s five million hectares, an area that is three times the size Swaziland the Southern Africa country.

In Latin, I am known as Combretum glutinosum and in the western Africa Maninka language, I am jambakatan kè while the Hausa people refer to me as Kantakara. Many people in the Southern Niger village of Dan Saga don’t even know any of these names. But they definitely know me, which is what matters. They see me in their farms and see what my presence does to their crops. Those who are older than thirty can clearly remember a time when the farms that I now stand guard over were bare and barren. They remember how the barrenness of that land was like a cancerous tumor that was eating away at their livelihoods and health.

And then I came along and everything changed. I came through a pathway known as Farmer-managed natural regeneration aka FMNR.    

FMNR entails regeneration and management of trees and shrubs that sprout from stumps, roots, and seeds found in degraded soils. These new woody plants have an amazing effect on farms. They inject more fertility in the soil and provide moisture for crops planted in combination with them. Consequently, a previously bare land becomes dotted with trees even as crops flourish. For the last two decades, the World Agroforesty Centre has been working closely with the people of Southern Niger to ensure that this flourish of crops becomes an enduring reality. Their efforts have borne fruit as proven by anecdotal evidence from farmers in this region.

According to the World Agroforesty Centre, satellite imagery shows that approximately 5 million hectares of once degraded farmland now supports medium to high densities of tree cover in the Maradi and Zinder regions of southern Niger. These trees are literally putting food on the table. The International Food Policy Research Institute reveals that 1 hectare of FMNR can increase cereal yields by an average of 100kg.

While more studies are needed, it is clear that food can sometimes grow on trees.

Author

DJ Bwakali

DJ Bwakali

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