Chris Reij, at World Resources Institute, published a piece on the history of re-greening Africa’s drylands.
Re-greening—a process where African farmers manage and protect trees that grow on their farms, rather than cutting them down—is already beginning to transform the continent’s drylands. Supporting and scaling up the low-tech process can not only increase crop yields in drought-prone regions, it can mitigate climate change and reduce rural poverty.
Reij also outlines some of the benefits to the farmers undertaking the responsibility of re-greening Africa, by nurturing the trees on their farms, instead of cutting them down.
At the same time, increased tree density on farms helps farmers adapt to the effects of climate change and increase food security. On-farm trees reduce wind speed and produce shade for crops, reducing loss of water through evaporation. The added leaf litter also helps replenish organic matter in the soil and increase moisture-holding capacity, boosting soil fertility and crop yields. Niger, for example, faced a significant national grain deficit in 2012 due to erratic rainfall in 2011. Meanwhile, Niger researchers found that a district with high on-farm tree densities had produced a grain surplus of almost 14,000 tons in 2011.
Farmers also tend to protect particular species of trees that provide benefits beyond the cropland. These trees can produce fodder for livestock, as well as wood for cooking, home construction, and for sale in local markets. The integration of trees into farming systems contributes to the sustainable intensification and diversification of agricultural production, along with increased household incomes and resilience to climate change.
See more at World Resources Institute blog.