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Mali Drives FMNR for Over Two Decades

Mali, part of West Africa’s notoriously barren Sahel region, birthed FMNR (farmer managed natural regeneration) out of necessity. Between 1960-1990 a confluence of causes collided to give rise to accelerated soil degradation. Climate change, flawed agricultural policies, and population pressures all exacerbated deforestation and desertification. Fortunately, these pressures sparked local leaders in the area of Ende to act. Community members revived the traditional Barahogon, a community-based organization that manages local resources. The practice of FMNR was able to take root, and large swaths of land were regenerated.

Since 1994, the UK-based environmental NGO, SOS Sahel, and later it’s Malian offshoot Sahel Eco, worked with these communities to promote traditional agroforestry concepts and regeneration of local tree species. Among them, the balazan tree (also known as acacia) serves multiple functions: its leaves provide groundcover and soil nutrition; its deep roots stave off soil erosion; as a leguminous species, it helps fix nitrogen in the soil. Because of its life giving value, the balazan tree holds cultural and religious prominence in the region.

Through experimentation, farmers identified the most useful practices to regenerate trees as an integrate them into their farms, for example:

  • Saving young tree shoots rather than destroying seedlings
  • Improved strategies to clean fields rather than cleaning and burning branches and stumps
  • Pruning trees versus mutilating them
  • Gathering tree cuttings (for fodder and fuel wood) rather than logging firewood from farm and fallow fields
  • Using mulching, manure and animal management techniques in the field

In a short period of about 10 years, the Barahogon association of Ende achieved major ecological restoration of their land, giving birth to FMNR in the region. With newfound success, farmers and their organizations began to organize to spread these innovations through learning exchange visits, local contests and radio programs. Sahel Eco continued to invest in spreading this work, and joined forces with Groundswell International in 2012 to deepen agroecological practices and build regional networks. Read more about this powerful example of agroecology in Fertile Ground: Scaling Agroeoclogy from the Ground Up.

“Overall, the work started by the Barahogon, and supported by Sahel Eco, has resulted in remarkable reversal of deforestation and desertification, the spreading of FMNR to a critical mass of farmers in the Mopti Region, and significant contributions made to a wider Greening the Sahel movement in Mali and in West Africa. The results are clear and tangible to those living and farming in the Mopti.” -Pierre Dembele, Drissa Gana, Peter Gubbels and Steve Brescia, Fertile Ground

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