"But drylands can and do support significant crop and livestock production. In fact, the famine we are seeing today is mainly a product of neglect, not nature."
Forest and agroforestry experts say the famine should prompt significant new investments in proven approaches to reforestation and agroforestry that elsewhere in Africa are restoring forests as protectors of drylands and providing important sources of food and other valuable agriculture products.
For example, in Niger, a program launched in 1983 has transformed 5 million hectares of barren land into agroforests. ICRAF experts found that during the drought that hit the country in 2005, farmers who embraced agroforestry were able to sell trees for timber and use the money to buy food. They also were able to supplement their diets with fruits and edible leaves harvested from drought-resistant trees.
In Ethiopia, reforestation projects known as Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), implemented by the World Bank and World Vision, are restoring some 2,700 hectares of degraded land. The projects already are providing income-generating wood and tree products for local communities, improving pasture and achieving a drastic reduction in soil erosion.
Meanwhile, using trees in a wider variety of farm applications is rapidly making agroforestry a popular approach to improving food production in the drylands of Africa. So-called "fertilizer trees" that capture nitrogen from the atmosphere and deposit it into the soil are being used to restore degraded farmlands in Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania, Niger and Burkina Faso.
There are also a wide range of naturally growing trees suitable for livestock consumption that have long been used by livestock keepers in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in the dry season when grass and crop residues are scarce.
"We need to pay far mor
|Contact: Paul Stapleton|
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)