Money Grows on Trees–Don’t Uproot Them

Lucky Choolwe, a field facilitator for Grassroots Trust in
Zambia, which engages with land owners and policy-makers to
regenerate eco-systems, conducts a practical session with farmers
on FMNR. Courtesy: Friday Phiri

By Friday Phiri
PEMBA, Zambia, Jul 26 2019 (IPS)

Jennifer Handondo, a small scale farmer of Choma district in
southern Zambia, plants food crops such as maize mostly for her
family’s needs. Because of uncharacteristically high temperatures
and low rainfall during the planting season in March, the divorced
mother who single-handedly supports her three children, has not
been able to harvest as much as she usually does. So she has
diversified into selling seedlings of neem, Moringa and other
medicinal trees.

“For me, trees represent money and a livelihood, but not in
the wrong way through charcoal production but through these
seedlings,” she told IPS. As a value add, she recently
diversified into selling leaf powders such as Moringa Oleifera—a
scientifically proven food and medicinal tree.

While she earned on average about 78 dollars from selling the
excess crop her family did not use, she said she earns as much as
5,400 dollars a month currently from sales of the Moringa powder.
She receives orders for the powder from large local institutions
and explained that she usually has to collaborate with other
farmers to fulfil these orders.

“My livelihood is based on trees,” she said.

Zambia’s rising deforestation threat

Zambia has a forest coverage of 49.9 million hectares,
representing 66 percent of the total land area in this southern
African nation and boasting at least 220 different tree species.
However, with a deforestation rate of between 250,000 and 300,000
hectares per annum, this rich biodiversity is at risk of being
wiped away.

A recent environment outlook
report
by the Zambia
Environmental Management Agency (ZEMA)
showed that the
country’s high levels of deforestation are not slowing down. The
report points to various causes for this, among them illegal
indiscriminate cutting of trees and the reckless collection of wood
for fuel, charcoal burning, the harvesting of timber, clearing of
large tracks of land for agriculture through slash and burn
methods, urbanisation and new human settlements.

In addition, the country’s renewable energy connectivity
figures are not impressive. It is estimated that only about 25
percent of the population of 17 million is connected to renewable
energy sources.

Handondo’s story is different though. A grade nine dropout,
she has returned to school and graduated in General Agriculture
from the Zambia College of Agriculture. She is passionate and
active in forest conservation, participating in tree-planting
campaigns and awareness programmes since 2016.
So for her the link to selling seedlings and products from trees as
a source of income was an easy one.

She is also a change agent and champion for the World Vision Zambia supported
farmer-managed forest regeneration (FMNR) project, which is being
implemented in southern Zambia. FMNR is the active regeneration and
management of trees and shrubs from felled stumps, sprouting root
systems or seeds with the goal of restoring degraded farmland and
soil fertility, and increasing the value and/or quantity of woody
vegetation on farmland.

“The main objective of FMNR is to empower the community with
knowledge to reduce deforestation which has been very rampant in
this country,” Shadrick Phiri, World Vision Zambia Agriculture
and Natural Resource Specialist, told IPS.

According to Phiri, the technique is highly appropriate for
rural communities and land that has been degraded to a point where
the loss of perennial vegetation cover, biodiversity and soil
fertility on farmland is diminishing livelihoods and quality of
life.
“FMNR can take place either as an on-farm activity practiced by
individual farmers, or in forest areas protected and managed by the
community,” Phiri said, adding that the practice is also relevant
to the regeneration of grazing lands.

“We have chosen to use a cheap but robust system of
regenerating our forests naturally. We currently have 600 farmers
under the four area development programmes in Southern Province
currently practising FMNR. The figure currently stands at 2,600
households nationally across the 25 area programmes where World
Vision is currently working.”

The FMNR project is one of several initiatives in Zambia
targeting the restoration of degraded land. Other projects
include:

  •  the Community Based Natural Resources Management in Zambia
    with the World Wildlife Fund for Nature serving as
    secretariat;
  • the Zambia Community Forests Programme implemented by Bio
    Carbon Partners;
  • the Promoting Climate-Resilient, Community-Based Regeneration
    of Indigenous Forests in Zambia’s Central Province project by
    ZEMA;
  • and the Zambia Integrated Forest Landscape Project supported by
    the World Bank.

Another intervention working to improve local livelihoods of
farmers by revitalising degraded lands, is Plant A Million (PAM). Launched
last year, PAM is a United Nations
Convention to Combat Desertification
-supported project under
the Africa-led 3S initiative. It aims to plant at least two billion
trees by 2021.

Emanuel Chibesakunda of Munich Advisors Group, a business and
investment consultancy firm that developed the concept and is
implementing the initiative, told IPS that since the launch an
important milestone for rural farmers has been the partnerships
with like-minded stakeholders.
Musika Development Enterprise, a non-profit company with a mandate
to stimulate and support private investment in the Zambian
agricultural market with a specific focus on the lower end of these
markets, has been one of these partners.

“Musika provided both technical and financial support to PAM
to set up a commercial nursery in order to strengthen rural
livelihoods through domestication of indigenous fruit and non-fruit
trees in Zambia. This proposed intervention will enhance Musika’s
efforts in testing the ‘trees on farms’ concept as a business
for the smallholder economy that has the potential to generate
socio-economic return on investment and enhance environmental
sustainability,” Reuben Banda, Musika’s managing director, told
IPS.

The nursery sells readily-available seedlings at an affordable
price.

Community centred approaches
At the Global Landscapes Forum held last month in Germany, leaders,
experts and indigenous communities deliberated and adopted a rights
approach to sustainable landscapes management and conservation.

The forum showcased evidence from around the globe that when the
authority of local communities over their forests and lands, as
well as their rights, are legally recognised, deforestation rates
are often reduced.

In recognition that it is this generation who can and must
recover the damaged land, governments, civil society and
traditional leadership, are using community-centred approaches to
achieve land degradation neutrality.

A unique feature of FMNR in Zambia is the targeting of
traditional leadership as an entry point.

“As custodians of vast traditional land where most of
deforestation activities take place, we believe their involvement
is very important in reversing the damage,” said Phiri.
He explained that the community approach has been successfully
implemented in Niger and Ethiopia, with millions of hectares of
forests under regeneration, while Malawi is equally making steady
progress.

At a recently-held community meeting in Zambia, traditional
leaders resolved to form Community Forest Committees to enforce
FMNR and all related forest management activities in their
chiefdoms.

But to achieve this, they requested that the government consider
strengthening their authority by giving them powers of enforcement
with regards to laws that govern local offences and penalties.

“As traditional leaders, we are of the view that section 19 of
the Village Act on offences and penalties be strengthened to give
more power to traditional leaders to sternly deal with offenders in
our local jurisdiction,” said Tyson Hamamba, a representative of
Chief Choongo from Southern Province.

Hamamba said this was the only way to deter rampant charcoal
making and deliberate bush fires among other destructive practices
leading to alarming forest and land degradation.

According to current laws, chiefs cannot issue a penal sanction
against offenders. Their only role is to facilitate arrest of
offenders by state police and/or other legally authorised law
enforcement agencies.

For Handondo, FMNR is important for the future of the
country’s forests. She credits it as being key to the lush
growth of her seedling business.
“As a small scale farmer, and a seedling grower for that matter,
I have found this practice cheap and easy to undertake. I have
noted that we have a lot of stagnant bushes that are not growing
because they are overcrowded but when we prune through the practice
of FMNR, we have seen that these shrubs quickly grow into trees
forming the much needed forest cover because nutrient competition
is reduced.”

The post Money
Grows on Trees–Don’t Uproot Them
appeared first on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Money Grows on Trees–Don’t Uproot Them