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* Re-Greening the Sahel

* Re-Greening the Sahel

Linking Adaptation to Climate Change, Poverty Reduction, and Sustainable Development in Drylands

(p.303) 23 * Re-Greening the Sahel
The Social Lives of Forests
Chris Reij
University of Chicago Press

This chapter focuses on forest recovery in Niger, one of the poorest countries in Africa. Although Niger is perceived as environmentally degraded and in permanent crisis, there has been large-scale landscape recovery even in the absence of significant government or foreign aid interventions. Recent analysis of long-term trends in agriculture and environment found large-scale on-farm re-greening, especially in regions with dense populations. In itself this is not surprising, as increasing population densities can induce farmers to intensify agriculture and trees, but the scale of this farmer-managed re-greening is unexpected and significant. Using soil conservation techniques based on local knowledge and farmer-managed natural regeneration, 5 million hectares have been recovered in open forests. A significant factor promoting on-farm re-greening has been the perceived shift in rights to trees from state-owned to private ownership, often largely managed by women. Once farmers recognized that they held exclusive rights to trees, the stage was set for revival of several traditional modes of water conservation that have proven beneficial to natural regeneration and management of indigenous multi-use trees. These new institutional arrangements and coincident forest recovery improved livelihoods, crop yields, and local biodiversity.

Keywords:   Sahel, Niger, indigenous knowledge, forest recovery, gender, tree rights, soil conservation

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