Nairobi, Kenya – The ongoing forest and land restoration programme by the Food and Agriculture Organisation is slowly transforming Africa’s Sahel, a semiarid region that has witnessed intractable conflicts for years.
Climate change has been partly blamed for the rising conflicts especially between farmers and herders in the region, due to depletion of natural resources.
Additionally, the United Nations estimate that 80 per cent of agricultural areas in the Sahel belt are already affected by climate change.
The Forest and Landscape Restoration and Sustainable Land Management in the Sahel project, funded by the French Facility for Global Environment, is thus helping to change the narrative.
Through the project, technical partners from the FAO and its partners have helped communities in Burkina Faso and Niger to transform degraded or barren land into healthy and fertile landscapes.
The development has seen people, ecosystems and other stakeholders cohabit in a sustainable land management framework.
Among successful interventions is construction of 25 manure pits in the villages of Bidigou and Namoantiari and the construction of half-moons in the villages of Tchelel and Alalel in Burkina Faso.
Half-moons are small, semicircular earth bunds used to catch water flowing down a slope. They help to rehabilitate degraded land. Crops such as sorghum, millet and cowpeas can be planted in the lower portion of half-moons. In addition, stone barriers have been constructed in some villages, covering an area of 29 hectares.
Other support led to the development of 15 hectares of stone barriers, the selection and construction of 42 manure pits in some villages. In Niger, the project has seen restoration of 646 hectares of land.
Local groups in Niger have also been trained on the technique of making improved fireplaces from banco to save energy, in an effort to support the restoration of landscape and forests. Toward that end, 15 technical agents and 45 endogenous animators from nine women’s groups were trained and a monitoring system was set up in each village, led by the president of the groups’ unions.
The FAO said the security and health crises due to Covid-19 greatly hampered the implementation of the programme’s activities last year, but the communities nevertheless benefited from multifaceted support to achieve better management of their land and restore their forests.
For a four-year period beginning from November 2017, the project aims to contribute to the implementation of forest and landscape restoration and sustainable land management in three communes in each country to sustainably provide multiple social, economic and environmental goods and services. It was extended to December this year. In light of degraded lands with low-quality soil and inadequate rainfall, smallholder farmers in Burkina Faso and Niger grow crops through digging small holes or planting pits locally known as zai in Burkina Faso and tassa in Niger.
The 20-centimeter across and 20-centimeter deep circular holes are filled with organic matter. Each pit is then sown with 8 to 12 millet or sorghum seeds. The pits act as micro catchments that collect water and sediment. Once made, the pits can be used again, season after season.
Courtesy: China Daily