Building on successes with regreening in the West African Sahel

Regreening entails increasing the number of both on-farm trees and, in some countries, off-farm trees through natural forest management and for the protection and management of natural regeneration on degraded land. There is an urgent need to scale up existing successes in both regreening approaches, because trees produce multiple benefits for rural populations. Trees have a positive impact on agricultural production as they help maintain or increase soil organic matter content, which increases the water-holding capacity of the soil. Some species fix nitrogen from the air on their root systems, which helps maintain and improve soil fertility. Other species also produce fodder, which allows farmers to keep more livestock. Trees also decrease wind speed and locally reduce temperatures, which helps farmers adapt to climate change. More trees, higher crop yields, and more livestock enable farmers to better cope with drought years. Women are among the key beneficiaries of more on-farm trees, which they can prune for firewood.

The protection and management of woody species is a low-cost way for farmers to intensify and diversify their rural production systems and increase their incomes. Farmers can support regreening without procuring expensive inputs simply by investing their labor in the protection and management of woody species, which produces much better results at lower costs than tree planting.

This brief is one of series on scaling up in agriculture, rural development, and nutrition.

Reij, Chris
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International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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