Almost 270,000 people live in the Aguié Department of Niger. For many years, poor people in the area cut down trees for fuel, building and other uses.
With each year’s rains, tiny tree shoots would emerge from the soil, a reminder of the thousands of stumps and roots lying just below the surface. Animals grazed on the shoots and farmers cleared them to make way for crops. But without the trees, the land became unproductive and the crops failed.
IFAD recognized that the only way to improve food security and incomes in the region was to come up with a programme that would allow the trees to grow. In 2000 an assisted natural regeneration programme was implemented on more than 100,000 hectares of land. IFAD has been a major contributor to the programme.
The programme has been a resounding success. An evaluation found there were 50 new trees per hectare in the programme area. Vast zones of the 100,000 hectare area are now protected from damage from sandstorms. Reforestation rates were lower in non-programme areas. Assisted natural regeneration has also contributed to restoring soil fertility. The benefits of encouraging tree regeneration have been so dramatic that farmers not directly involved in the programme are also following the practice.