Samuel Abasiba of World Vision Ghana defines farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) as “a low-cost land restoration technique used to combat poverty and hunger amongst, subsistence farmers by increasing food and timber production, farm incomes and resilience to climate extremes.”
Abasiba worked with a chief and 20 leading farmers to establish a community forest in Saaka Aneogo in Bawku West District in Ghana’s Upper East Region as part of a project to establish FMNR in four communities.
The model for the forest, says Abasiba, comes from successful pilot projects in the drylands of Niger around the towns of Maradi and Zinder established in 1983. Since then, the approach has spread to 23 countries around the world.
Just five years after it was begun, the 58-hectare community forest now comprises well over 100 tree and shrub species. According to Abasiba, more are appearing all the time as the forest attracts birds and other wildlife that spread seeds. When the community first identified the site for regeneration, he says they identified only 53 species of trees and shrubs.
The success of the forest owes much to the commitment of the entire community to its protection and management through pruning and sustainable harvesting and other uses.
Under the leadership of Chief Salifu Mustapha, there is strong community involvement. Women, men, young people and even children are encouraged to collect fruits in the forest and participate in caring for it.
Asked what women saw as the most important benefit of the forest, leading farmer Barikisu Salifu replied, “food and nutrition”. In addition to leaves, fruits and nuts, women also collect mushrooms from the forest. Salifu said that it also brings them income, particularly from ‘economic’ trees, such as shea.
For traditional healer and herbalist, Imoro Agonda, the forest is an important source of medicinal plants that have become scarce elsewhere in the degraded landscape. Community members also speak of an improved microclimate in and around the forest.
That is not to say there are no challenges.
“The number-one enemy is bush fires,” says Samuel Abasiba.
To overcome this threat, the community has trained a team of ‘fire service volunteers’, who have cleared a fire belt around the forest to prevent wildfires from destroying it.
Anyone caught illegally cutting wood in the forest is fined and guilty parties are required to plant and nurse seedlings until they mature.
To protect the forest in perpetuity, the community says it would like to see the land registered as a community forest by the district assembly, something the regional director of Agriculture, Francis Ennor, agrees is essential.
Ennor was speaking at a workshop in Bolgatanga, capital of Ghana’s Upper East Region, which called for action to regreen landscapes.
Call to action: more trees to restore landscapes and improve livelihoods in northern Ghana
Regreening Africa is a five-year project that seeks to reverse land degradation among 500,000 households across 1 million hectares in eight countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Incorporating trees into crop land, communal land and pastoral areas can reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes. In Ghana, the work is led by World Vision in collaboration with ICRAF and Catholic Relief Services.
WAFFI is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. ICRAF is one of the 15 members of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food-secure future. We thank all donors who support research in development through their contributions to the CGIAR Fund.
This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of the Regreening Africa project and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.
By Joan Baxter, originally published by The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).