World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
United Nations Avenue, Gigiri, Nairobi, Kenya
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Retired Bishop, Simon Chiwanga from Mpwapwa in Tanzania, has been strongly committed to reforestation over a number of years. He had tried closing a hill to human interventions with a disappointing result and in 2005, with the Jitume Foundation community groups, planted two million trees but most died and the groups started to disintegrate.
After attending a Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration Workshop in Moshi, Tanzania in March and the Beating Famine Conference in Nairobi in April, his newfound understanding of FMNR rekindled his determination and he returned to Mpwapwa with renewed zeal to restore degraded farms and hills.
He learnt that forests could be regenerated using the power of the large root systems which often remain alive and have the capacity to draw water and nutrients from deep under the soil surface, after a tree is cut down.
Bishop Chiwanga wrote to us
The tree stumps never cease to excite me, and I was delighted to find the same with others after the tree stump thing dawns in their minds … Stumps were not quite visible where we began. When we got to a typical tree stump with a few shoots I could not resist my excitement. Apparently the group noticed my radiant face and asked for the reason. I explained the secret of FMNR- to release the underground forest to come to the surface, and that living stumps were the outlets for the underground forest to mushroom. A lady remarked, “Ahaa! Is that what we should be looking for, and I was doing a horrible thing to burn tree stumps in my farm so that later I could dig them out for firewood.” We were standing in her farm. From then on we were like game hunters, chasing living stumps.
The essence of FMNR is that by pruning the regenerating shoots from a live stump, the water and nutrients from the large root system can energise the remaining shoots to grow rapidly.
The action started immediately. He organised training on his own farm, demonstrating how the living stumps could be found and how to prune the many shoots down to three to five so that they could grow strongly. After demonstration, each participant had the opportunity to prune regrowth.
Bishop Chiwanga is the chairman of the Lead Foundation which now plans to train a group 10 FMNR champions in each of 44 villages to demonstrate and follow up FMNR and multiply their efforts by identifying, forming and training other groups.
World Vision Tanzania’s FMNR Champion, Idda Ikombe, has been working with the LEAD Foundation to train champions, identify gaps and add technical expertise.
We hope to share more of the developments in Tanzania in the near future.
Until next time
Liz is travelling in Africa with her husband Tony Rinaudo, a natural resource management advisor with World Vision Australia, encouraging communities, non-government organisations, governments, research organisations and others to scale up reforestation over large areas.
Two days filled with reviews of practical initiatives in sustainable land management, forestry and biodiversity conservation. Over 100 delegates gathered to hear the achievements of, challenges faced by and recommendations of various organisations. I will share just a taste of what we heard and experienced.
The Orthodox Church has traditionally practiced the protection of forests around churches. In highly degraded areas of northern Ethiopia, these remnant forests retain high levels of biodiversity and have become the source of seed for restoring indigenous forests. The remnant forests are currently threatened by grazing pressures, illegal wood harvesting, encroachment by farmers and burning but the church is working to protect them, increase the protected areas for forest restoration and develop biodiversity corridors.
Ethiopian Orthodox Church Forest
The World Agroforestry Centre is promoting Evergreen Agriculture which incorporates agroforestry into Conservation Agriculture. The inclusion of Faidherbia albida (an acacia-like, Nitrogen-fixing tree) into farming systems has been especially valuable, doubling and tripling crop yields in Zambia. It increases soil fertility and organic matter, soil water infiltration and retention, while diversifying incomes (providing bee and livestock forage), stabilising land and decreasing erosion. The Ethiopian government has a goal to assist farmers to plant 100 million Faidherbia trees on their farms.
Faidherbia albida (previously called Acacia albida – Gao in Niger)
Tony and some World Vision Ethiopia colleagues talked about Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) in Niger and Humbo, Ethiopia. This is a revolutionary new concept to many with the potential to regenerate forests and trees on farms on a broad scale with much lower costs and higher success rates than by tree planting.
The Ethio Wetlands and Natural Resource Association emphasises an integrated approach to population, health and environment. They have benefitted over 6,000 households with soil and water conservation structures, building the capacity of watershed management committees which have developed local bylaws, providing 104 safe water points and 102 peer educators to work with community members on family planning.
Many organisations have been planting trees with varied success rates. The trend is to move away from top down approaches, which tend to lock communities out of protected areas, and to move towards participatory approaches where communities are organised into cooperatives which care for forests, create appropriate bylaws and work in partnership with local governments.
The challenges are many and range from the thinking that agroforestry approaches are too slow in realising economic returns (which is not true in the case of FMNR); poor application of government policy; threats from major investors, livestock, population increase; shortage of seeds and seedlings of desired tree species and other resources to inadequate market chains for rural communities.
Recommendations for scaling up successful regreening initiatives:
I could write a lot more about this conference but need to post this blog before we head north where there may not be good internet access.
Until next time