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Roots of Recovery: Trees, People and Regeneration of the Sahel

New video explores the impact of farmer managed natural regeneration. The practice allows for the establishment of leafy tree vegetable gardens known as food banks. Foodbanks enable dryland farmers to have a ready source of fresh, rich nutrient sources with locally consumed tree leaves such as baobab and moringa.

The Sahel, home to over 100 million people, marks the frontier where human habitation and agriculture meets the Sahara desert. Farmers here have been managing crops and livestock with scattered trees for generations, creating the vast agro-forestry parklands that dominate the landscapes. Indigenous trees here are essential to locals as they provide food,medicine, timber and climate regulation.

For decades this area has experienced high climate change, desertification and worsening food insecurity. Recently widespread re-greening has happened because farmers have encouraged the regeneration of young trees that grow naturally in their fields, a practice known as farmer managed natural regeneration and which is heralded as the corner stone of modern climate-smart agriculture. The practice allows for the establishment of leafy tree vegetable gardens known as food banks. Food banks enable dryland farmers to have a ready source of fresh, rich nutrient sources with locally consumed tree leaves such as baobab and moringa

In the drylands of Mali, farmers are adopting tree based food banks in order to address nutritional deficiencies affecting children. Food deficient in minerals and vitamins is a major source of malnutrition and stunting among children in the developing world. For example, the fertile region of Sikasso, a major cereal producing area in the south of Mali, has the highest stunting prevalence (45 – 47%) of children under-five in Mali. 

Indigenous tree based fruits and vegetables offer an opportunity to address this problem and strengthen the country's nutrition security. Tree based fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins and important nutrients are part of the traditional diet in areas with sufficient trees around. However, in more densely populated areas fruits and vegetables have become increasingly scarce and diets have impoverished accordingly. The problem could be solved with the establishment of food banks planted with appropriate tree species that supply these minerals and vitamins throughout the year. 

The tree based food banks have also been integrated into a broader initiative known as technology parks implemented by the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) with other centers such as the World Vegetable Centre (AVRDC), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) amongst others who together demonstrate the integration of vegetables, grains, and tree based vegetables for a food and nutrient secure diet.

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Acknowledgment

The research work highlighted here is  conducted under the framework of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, the USAID-funded Africa RISING project and the CGIAR Research Programme on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).

 

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