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Managing landscapes for Climate-Smart Agriculture systems


Positive dynamics – the 're-greening' of the Sahel and the Great Green Wall action plans

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Sahel region experienced disastrous droughts that caused widespread famine. However, over the past three decades, helped in part by moderate increases in rainfall, hundreds of thousands of farmers in Burkina Faso and Niger have transformed arid landscapes into productive agricultural land by modifying traditional agroforestry, water and soil management practices. This ‘re-greening’ of the Sahel began when innovative farmers and non-governmental organizations rediscovered and enhanced local agricultural practices in simple, inexpensive ways. An evolving coalition of local, national, and international groups promoted the dissemination and continued use of these improved practices. Policy changes regarding land tenure, and changes in opportunities for off-farm employment also contributed to the progress. The initiative uses an integrated landscape approach, which enabled issues related to land degradation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and forestry to be addresses within the local setting in ways that incorporated livelihoods into the land and water management systems. For example, to improve water availability and soil fertility in Burkina Faso’s Central Plateau, farmers have sown crops in planting pits and built stone contour bunds. In southern Niger, farmers have developed innovative ways of regenerating and multiplying valuable trees. These lands now support increasing amounts of trees, crops, and livestock, which have enhanced the food security of about 3 million people. Water levels in wells have increased significantly. Some farmers maintain small vegetable gardens near the wells, which adds to their incomes and improves nutrition. Although millet and sorghum remain the dominant crops, farmers working on rehabilitated land are also growing cowpea and sesame. With increased quantities of fodder and crop residues, farmers keep livestock closer to their fields in more intensive and profitable crop-livestock production systems, which provide feed for animals and manure for fertilizer. These innovations have also improved the supply of fuelwood, allowing women to reallocate the time once spent on collecting fuelwood to other activities.

Source: Reij et al., 2009; World Bank, 2011

The Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative, established in 2007, has become Africa's flagship initiative to combat the effects of climate change and desertification. The Initiative brings together more than 20 African countries, international organizations, research institutes, civil society and grassroots organizations. Within this broad initiative, Action Against Desertification is an initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, which addresses the detrimental social, economic and environmental impacts of land degradation and desertification through a landscape approach to restore drylands and degraded lands. It is implemented by FAO and partners with funding from the European Union through the project Action Against Desertification. Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, the Gambia, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal have prepared their Great Green Wall national strategies and action plans, which are currently being implemented or are seeking financing. In Chad, Djibuti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Mauritania groups have also been mobilized and are involved in preparing action plans.

Source: Action Against Desertification