Ecology Programmes Communities regreen the Sahel

Today, 41% of the global land area is covered by “drylands” such as deserts, grasslands and savannahs, and this area is ever expanding. The majority of the people who live in these drylands are dependent on natural resources, on land cultivation and on livestock-rearing. Healthy ecosystems, land and natural resources are therefore critical for dryland populations. However, some 70% of the world’s drylands are affected by degradation.

Land degradation in the Sahel

In the drylands of the Sahel, land degradation is one of the biggest threats to the traditional livelihoods of millions of people. In Niger, Burkina Faso and Senegal, countries which are highly affected by droughts and food insecurity, the loss of productive and fertile land threatens the livelihoods of both farming communities and pastoralists.

Unsustainable agricultural practices, notably the cultivation of non-indigenous and irrigated crops, as well as overgrazing, are major drivers of land degradation. This process is exacerbated by changes in climate that cause even more erratic rainfall patterns, longer periods of drought and unpredictable growing seasons. As a result, conflicts between farmers and pastoralists over access to water, land use for cultivation and grazing grounds are intensifying, to which the current policy frameworks do not have an effective answer.

Turning the tide

However, there are promising initiatives to turn the tide. In various countries in the Sahel, vast tracts of land have been restored by the local population by nurturing what spontaneously springs from the soil and protecting the sprouts from cattle and hazards. Both ENDS and local partners in Niger, Senegal and Burkina Faso support this ‘Farmer-Led Regreening’ which enables the tree and shrub vegetation to recover. This successful low-cost, low-technology and farmer-led method enhances local food security and ecological stability in the long run. The ownership lies with local people through the establishment of Village Committees, which form the backbone of Farmer-Led Regreening. With this 10-year programme, Both ENDS and our local partners aim to create all the necessary conditions for a snowball effect for Farmer-Led Regreening on a large scale in these three countries, as the ‘proof of concept’ has already been delivered there.

Protecting seedlings

An important factor for successfully introducing Farmer-Led Regreening in the community, is an agreement between village farmers and other land users like cattle herders and nomadic populations on land use and the protection of seedlings from ‘cattle & axe’, especially during the first period of 3 to 4 years. The reward is a growing resource cake for all, with reciprocal benefits: pastoralists gain access to more biomass (fodder), while the farmers gain access to the herds’ manure (droppings left behind).

Government support & market access

Effectively Farmer-Led Regreening the Sahel also requires, besides the adoption of methods by local land users, an enabling environment in terms of governance and access to markets. By having local authorities participating in the training sessions, organising field visits for them and update councillors and village chiefs on the progress of the Farmer-Led Regreening activities, local formal and customary policy-makers get involved in the project activities, and are more likely to support and adopt these initiatives.

Overall goals (ten years)

1) A total area of 200,000 hectares (divided over three countries) has been restored using Farmer-Led Regreening by and for communities
2) There are laws, policies and support programmes in place in three countries (local up to international) that support Farmer-led Farmer-Led Regreening
3) Farmers applying Farmer-Led Regreening are organised and have access to markets for (added-value) Farmer-led Regreening products;.

This programme is executed by Both ENDS.


Key features

Landscape  Sahel region of Niger, Senegal, Burkino Faso
Goals next 3 years  Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration
  Regreening 50.000 hectares
  25-30 tree density per hectare
  15-20 participating municipalities
  7000 trained champion farmers