Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration Enhances Rural Livelihoods in Dryland West Africa

Abstract

Declining agricultural productivity, land clearance and climate change are compounding the vulnerability of already marginal rural populations in West Africa. ‘Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration’ (FMNR) is an approach to arable land restoration and reforestation that seeks to reconcile sustained food production, conservation of soils, and protection of biodiversity. It involves selecting and protecting the most vigorous stems regrowing from live stumps of felled trees, pruning off all other stems, and pollarding the chosen stems to grow into straight trunks. Despite widespread enthusiasm and application of FMNR by environmental management and development projects, to date, no research has provided a measure of the aggregate livelihood impact of community adoption of FMNR. This paper places FMNR in the context of other agroforestry initiatives, then seeks to quantify the value of livelihood outcomes of FMNR. We review published and unpublished evidence about the impacts of FMNR, and present a new case study that addresses gaps in the evidence-base. The case study focuses on a FMNR project in the district of Talensi in the semi-arid Upper East Region in Ghana. The case study employs a social return on investment analysis, which identifies proxy financial values for non-economic as well as economic benefits. The results demonstrate income and agricultural benefits, but also show that asset creation, increased consumption of wild resources, health improvements, and psycho-social benefits created more value in FMNR-adopting households during the period of the study than increases in income and agricultural yields.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Previously ‘Talensi-Nabdam’ District, which was divided into two separate districts in 2012. Note also that the area was the site of well-known ethnographic work by Meyer Fortes in the 1930s (Parker 2013).

  2. 2.

    Finance figures sourced from World Vision Australia financial database and timesheet records.

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Acknowledgments

This research arose from a World Vision project evaluation subsequently elaborated into an academic study at Monash University. It was made possible by the support of World Vision and its donors. World Vision Australia’s Lucia Boxelaar and Tim Morris kindly made internal resources and data available for publication; World Vision Ghana staff facilitated data collection support. At the time of data collection and analysis, Mr Weston and Dr Kaboré were employees of World Vision Australia. The Talensi FMNR Project was funded by the Government of Australia and private donations from the Australian public. We gratefully acknowledge the willing participation of Talensi community members, and the inputs of Tony Rinaudo, as well as satellite imagery provided by Gray Tappan of the US Geological Survey EROS Center. Social Ventures Australia helped develop semi-structured question guides. The manuscript benefited from comments by Craig Thorburn, Bruce Missingham, and two anonymous reviewers.

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Weston, P., Hong, R., Kaboré, C. et al. Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration Enhances Rural Livelihoods in Dryland West Africa. Environmental Management 55, 1402–1417 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-015-0469-1

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Keywords

  • West Africa
  • Agroforestry
  • Ghana
  • Land restoration
  • Semi-arid
  • Social return on investment (SROI)
  • Farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR)