Re-greening in Africa addresses both food security and climate change, and global leaders need to take notice of the strategy.
An article on World Resources Institute Insights calls on leaders such as Obama, who is vising Africa and just announced the US Climate Action Plan, to help scale-up re-greening efforts.
Re-greening relies on African farmers managing and protecting trees that grow on their farms. It has been gradually expanding on the continent since 2007 and already “beginning to transform the continent’s drylands,” says the article. Now there is a need to scale-up the process to increase crop yields in drought-prone areas, mitigate climate change and reduce rural poverty.
In Niger, remote sensing shows that 12 million acres of land have been re-greened by farmers in densely populated areas. In Mali, on-farm tree densities have increased on more than one million acres, and more and more farmers in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Senegal are adopting the practice.
Not only do these additional trees store significant carbon, they help farmers adapt to the impacts of climate change, for example reducing the effect of wind, providing shade for crops and reducing loss of water through evaporation. Leaf litter from trees helps replenish organic matter in the soil and increase moisture-holding capacity, boosting soil fertility and crop yields.
Trees on farms also provide fodder for livestock, wood for cooking, home construction, and for sale in local markets.
The article says there is still a great deal to be done not only to increase the number of trees but also the diversity of species. One of the challenges is to develop policies and legislation that stimulates farmers to invest in protecting and managing trees on their farms