Mr. Norbert Akolbila, Founder and Executive Director of Movement for Natural Regeneration
Mr. Norbert Akolbila, Founder and Executive Director of Movement for Natural Regeneration

He said it has become clear that the conventional measures of controlling environmental degradation, such as planting of nursed tree seedlings have failed to address the problem comprehensively, particularly in the three northern regions where the scarcity of water during prolonged dry seasons has often resulted in the failure of tree planting projects.

Mr. Norbert Akolbila, Founder and Executive Director of Movement for Natural Regeneration
Mr. Norbert Akolbila, Founder and Executive Director of Movement for Natural Regeneration

“On the other hand FMNR has been highly successful as a less expensive land rehabilitation approach because it is locally-led and implemented, and easy to adopt because it uses local skills and resources. FMNR thus come in handy to complement the tree planting effort with is its attendant challenges” he said.

This was contained in a commemorative message MONAR issued in Bolgatanga to mark World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD).

Mr. Akolbila said it was long overdue for the government and development partners to start re-thinking on drought and desertification control strategies in view of current climate change realities, by embracing feasible agro-forestry techniques such as FMNR, which is sensitive to the livelihood needs and priorities of local communities.

He noted that it was for this reason that MONAR identifies itself with the theme for this year’s World Day to Combat desertification, which is “Inclusive cooperation for achieving Land Degradation Neutrality”.

The MONAR Director said the theme for the event was appropriate and timely because of the importance of inclusive cooperation among government, development partners and local communities in efforts to combat desertification as one of the greatest environmental threats of our times.

“We at MONAR are happy that the global community has realised the importance of inclusiveness in efforts to tackle the complex problem of land degradation and desertification, which has become a major food security threat worldwide. From experience, MONAR has long realised that the best way to tackle environmental degradation is to work from the bottom-up by rallying the support of community stakeholders in re-greening initiatives. Our approach in teaching tree and land regeneration techniques to communities is to get inclusive community participation and buy-in of the local people regarding the practical benefits of tree regeneration from the onset. The more community people are informed about and involved in the regeneration and land restoration process, the more likely that the initiatives will succeed. Without community involvement, an FMNR or any land management project may never take-off the ground or risked being short-lived” , the FMNR expert stressed.

Mr. Akolbila, formerly of World Vision Ghana, learned about this innovative agro-forestry technique when he worked with FMNR pioneer Tony Rinaudo of World Vision Australia to introduce the practice in the Talensi District of the Upper East Region in 2009.

“If FMNR has been used successfully to restore highly degraded communal and farmlands that were considered unproductive in the Talensi area, why not elsewhere in Ghana and West Africa. It only needs the commitment of all stakeholders working together in an enabling policy environment to scale up the practice beyond project intervention areas” , he pointed out.

Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) was initiated in the mid-1980s in Niger by Tony Rinaudo as a simple and low cost agro-forestry technique where farmers and community people are encouraged to systematically manage and protect the regeneration of native tree seedlings and shrubs on farms and communal lands. Ever since, more than one million rural households in Niger have used FMNR to protect and manage trees across five million hectares (12.3 million acres) in the densely populated parts of Maradi and Zinder in southern Niger. These trees helped increase cereal production by 500,000 tons (enough to feed 2.5 million people) a year and raised incomes by two to three times from sale of products like edible leaves and honey. Currently, FMNR has been widely embraced by governments and non-governmental agencies in many countries around the world.

The MONAR Executive Director commended the United Nations for instituting the WDCD in 1995 to increase public awareness on the issue and to remind people that desertification can be effectively tackled through strengthened community participation and co-operation at all levels.

He urged government as a signatory to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification to redouble efforts towards adopting feasible and proactive policies to combat the threat of drought and desertification.
It is estimated that about 35% of Ghana’s land area is prone to desertification, particularly in the Guinea and Sudan savannah dry areas of the Northern, Upper East and Upper West regions, with the Upper East Region being the worst affected.

The effects of drought and desertification on rural livelihoods in the three northern regions are enormous as rural communities increasingly experience lower crop and livestock productivity, which further deepens poverty. Drought and desertification also puts increasing pressure on urban areas as people migrate there from rural areas in search of jobs.

By Samuel Adadi Akapule, Bolgatanga

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