Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 13th, 2010

Natural reforestation of desertified regions in Africa

About 50% of the population of Niger are menaced of famine.

Famine in Chad has receded for the time being. Desert has been gaining on lands in the Sahel (dry savanna  in the States of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad south of the Sahara desert.

Satellite images of the Sahel region in Africa show the regaining of forests in particular spots where desert had occupied fertile lands in the last three decades.

Forest of local trees are sprouting west of the Capital Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) and in the south of Niger on the borders with north Nigeria.

About 200 million trees are covering an area of 3,125 square-kilometer.

What’s going on?

Local people are doing something that neither international aids nor technologies have proven to be efficient.  People are reverting to ancient agro-forestry techniques called “zai”.

They have been digging large holes (not deep but large enough) called “poquets” in large numbers.  The scarce water retained during the rainy season in these poquets (that are filled with local manure) helped grow natural tree shoots from grains in the manure.

The trees stabilize the soil, give shades, and permit growing abundance in harvesting mil and sorghum or sorgho (the main food staples in these regions).

In addition, people are now able to cut dry wood for cooking meals.  Cattle production has increased for the same size of lands.

Three decades ago, peasants had to saw their fields 4 times a year:  Dry winds ruined harvests.

With the rejuvenation of forests (natural assisted regeneration), peasants need to saw once and the harvest are abundant enough for self-sufficiency.

In the 1980’s, the under-ground water naps were being reduced by about a meter per year.  With the natural reforestation of local trees such as acacias and zizyphus (sisiphus?) the under-ground water has increased by 5 meters even with the demographic increases.

It appears that non local trees die 80% of the time within two years.

Cutting down forests has an interesting story.

During colonial period of France, French administrators declared forests to be national reserved areas so that only France could harvest forests; the local people were forbidden to satisfying their need in wood.  After independence, most of these African States had terrible reactions to colonial power and started purposely cutting down forests as symbol of revolt.

Sawadogo says: “In the beginning, I used to mix trees and harvests.  I tend now to preferring growing trees.  The more trees the better the revenue.”  Trees serve in construction, heating, and traditional pharmacopoeia.

International aides were targeting different alternatives such as “millennium villages” where vast amount of money and technologies were infused to providing seeds, chemical fertilizers, clinics, extracting under-ground water.  These projects failed and newer investments have slowed down after the financial crash.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2010
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