Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rio+20 should make sustainable land use a top priority

Luc Gnacadja in Severe droughts in Africa are a stark reminder of global unfairness. About 13 million people still struggle to have enough food in the Horn of Africa, and about the same number, most of them children, suffer from hunger in the Sahel region, which stretches across Africa below the Sahara. Droughts now hit these parts of Sub-Saharan Africa more frequently than the usual ten-year cycle, and more severely. And people living there are the least responsible for this climatic change.

...Now, the latest reports from early warning systems predict a crisis in both the Horn of Africa and Sahel again this year, when they have not yet recovered from the 2010 and 2011 droughts. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Farmers in the Maradi and Zinder regions of Niger know what to do. During the past 20 years they have protected trees on some five million hectares of farmland. Where they had no trees or only a few per hectare, they now have up to 120. These trees not only improve soil fertility but also provide about a million households with fodder, fruit and firewood.

A recent survey shows that the farmers who preserve trees are able to cope better with drought than other farmers in the same area. Some of them even produced a modest cereal surplus in 2011. This is just one example of highly successful sustainable land management on a grassroots level. Another is Yacouba Sawadogo, a farmer in Burkina Faso who featured in the documentary film, The Man Who Stopped the Desert. He has combined tree and crop planting techniques to turn the barren land in his village into a 15 hectare cultivated forest within three decades....

Meeting under a baobab tree in Niger, shot by ACEI Cheung, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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