Agroforestry: the future of agriculture in Africa’s drylands

Evergreen Agriculture, the growing of fertilizer trees alongside cropping and grazing, is providing a solution to both food and human security in Africa’s Sahel region.

Inter Press Service reports on how fertilizer trees are making a comeback after devastating droughts in the region. More than 5 million hectares of agricultural land are newly covered by trees. And the results are ‘staggering,” says the article, with communities in southern Niger now harvesting an additional 5000,000 tonnes of food per year.

Farmers in the Sahel have long grown trees such as Faidherbia albida, which become dormant and leafless during the cropping season. When the trees do grow leaves, farmers use these and the pods as fodder for livestock. During the prolonged droughts, communities were forced to cut and sell trees to buy food and survive.

Scientists from the World Agroforestry Centre have discovered a virtual underground ecosystem where trees grew in the past. Extensive root systems and perennials from various valuable indigenous trees still exist and farmers are now able to cultivate them.

Agroforestry has also had an effect on political and social landscape. Says, Dennis Garrity, Senior Fellow with the World Agroforestry Centre and UN Drylands Ambassador, “If you look at the dimensions of where terrorism and political insecurity are most acute, throughout the entire globe, it is a map of the drylands of Africa and West Asia”. Much of this can be attributed to a growing population (doubling every 20 years in the Sahel) and reduced farm size, leading to a decline in soil fertility.

With the region likely to become vulnerable to climate change, agroforestry is all the more urgent.

Read the full story: Sahel Region Learning to Reap the Benefits of Shade