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How have household adapted to food shortages and what roles have NRM investments played in preventing the impact of drought? (8 answers)

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I would like to invite participants of this forum to share their thoughts on the recent events in Niger.  I have written a background document that I hope you have had the time to read.  I hoped that we could begin the discussion by exploring the following two questions:

1) How have household adapted or responded to chronic shortfalls in food production?

2) What has been the role of NRM investments in preventing or reducing the impact of drought, food shortages and related crises?

I look forward to hearing from you all.

A tous,

Je voudrai vous convier à prendre part à ce forum pour partager leurs idées sur les évènements récents survenus au Niger et dans une moindre mesure dans d'autres pays du Sahel. Il s'agit d'un échange sur la place et le rôle de la GRN dans la prévention et la gestion des crises alimentaires. Comme support de discussion, j'ai écrit un petit document de réflexion qui j'espère aidera à lancer la discussion. Ce document est déjà sur le site. Consultez le et réagissez sur la base de votre expérience, quelque soit où vous vous trouvez, sur les deux questions suivantes :

[1)Comment est-ce que les ménages se sont adaptés et ont fait face aux déficits chroniques de la production alimentaires ?

2) Qu'a été le rôle des investissements de GRN dans la prévention ou la réduction de l'impact de la sécheresse, des déficits alimentaires et des crises qui y sont liées ?

J'attend une réaction de votre part.


Mohamadou MAGHA

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To prepare the Sahel study USAID funded through IRG's FRAME program a pilot study in Niger's Tahoua Department, which was carried out in February 2005. It was all about testin a questionnaire and get a feeling for longer term trends in agriculture, environment and rural poverty. The study was done in 4 villages, which had all 4 been part of SWC programs, which promoted different technologies and different approaches.

In 3 of the 4 villages all men and women interviewed were perfectly clear that the level of household food security had improved since the early 1990s and this improvement was not related to higher rainfall, but to investment in land rehabilitation. In all 4 villages there's a lot more vegetation now than 15 years ago. In one of the villages this is mainly due to tree planting along bunds by the Keita project. In another one mainly a combination of planting and protecting natural regeneration and in the other two mainly due to on-farm protection and management of natural regeneration. It's obvious that all villages have seen a substantial increase in their physical assets during the last 15 years.

Land rehabilitation has not had any impact on groundwater levels in one of the villages..., but it seems to have had this in the three others. In village no.2 the level of water in wells is so high that individual families have started to make wells in their courtyards. In village 3 water levels were 18 m deep in 1994 and 4 m. deep at the end of 2004. Village 4 is located in a valley and it had seen a fall in groundwater levels, but due to the recent construction of a water spreading dam in the valley....grondwater levels had improved.....and in reaction they had expanded the area under irrigation during the dry season. Besides this...due to the construction of the water spreading dam they had expanded the area under crops based on residual soil moisture. Those of you who have seen the power point of Niger...may remember the vast expanse of land under "dolichos lablab" as well as the land irrigated during the dry season. Bear in mind that we're talking here about the dry season of 2004 - 2005 !. There is reason to believe that local improvements in groundwater levels have little to do with years of good rainfall.....but everything with increased infiltration due to the presence of water harvesting techniques.

In 3 or the 4 villages one finds both men and women who have participated in the land market.....which means in the active buying and selling of degraded land to rehabilitate it. This is a common feature since simple land rehabilitation techniques (planting pits and half moons) were introduced around 1990.

There has also been a lot of local capacity building (social capital)....with women in one village impressively organized to manage and defend their rehabilitated fields. They were all widows or divorced...so a partyicularly vulnerable group. In another village the women had more than a 100 bags of cereals in February in their cereal bank. In another one they had developed considerable commercial activities.

Rainfall.....I've seen remarks about rainfall in Niger just having been 15% below average. The villagers of Batodi were clear about rainfall....we've just had two big rains last season and our cereals failed completely. It's not a matter of total rainfall, but also of its distribution...but here I'm kicking in an open door. 2004 seems to have been the worst year since 1984. Nevertheless the villagers in Batodi where the level of water in wells had increasd from - 18 to -4 m. had started to make small irrigated gardens around two wells. In one of them a group of women cultivated vegetables...in the other onions were the dominant crop.

What is most impressive in Niger is the scale of farmer-managed natural regeneration.....my guesstimate is that it concerns about 2 million hectares, but that remains to be underpinned by hard data. For the geberal context...see the special issue of the Journal of Arid Environments 63 (2005), which is a special issue on the Greening of the Sahel. Look in particular at the article by Olsson et al. on "A recent greening of the Sahel - trends, patterns and potential causes. No groundtruthing, only interpretation of satellite images...but these show the extent of greening. This issue also contains an article written by Adama Belemvire, Gray Tappan and myself about the changes on the Central Plateau of Burkina.

An IFAD evaluation report for its project in Aguie district..Maradi department estimates that due to project facilitation FMNR has been promoted on about 60,000 ha of farmland. We're talking about one district and about tree densities of at least 80 trees/ha. We hope that the study started in Niger can shed some more light on this. Now Maradi department was one of the regions most severely hit by the famine and this region was visited by Kofi Annan.

I can't say yet whether Aguie district fared better than other parts of Maradi department where FMNR is less developed. Hope the research team can shed light on this. It's obvious that the substantial land rehabilitation in Tahoua department has improved food security as also in 2004 - 2005 vegetables have been grown on many thousands of hectares...and the total area under irrigation has expanded during the last decade mainly due to the construction of water spreading dams, but in some cases also due to rehabilitation of degraded plateaus.

Last week I made a presentation for staff of IFAD's West and Central Africa Division....they were understandably in quite a somber mood about the famine in Niger...."IFAD has invested for 20 years in agriculture in Niger and it seems not to have made any difference". The message that I tried to get across was....don't despair....IFAD's investments in land rehabilitation have made a substantial difference...and I showed the earlier mentioned power point to illustrate some of the aspects mentioned above. The project controller for Niger left the next day for Niamey and had the strong intention to show the PP to the minister of agriculture.

There's a lot more to say about the crisis in Niger...but let's see what the Niger team doing the ex-post impact assessment of a number of NRM investments has come up with during the first six weeks.

During my stay in Nger and Burkina I'll try to monitor the discussion....but the internet in Niger is very slow and I'll be some days outside of Niamey.

Am attaching two photos of the same village in the Tahoua department provided by Gray Tappan....made respectively in 1975 and in 2003. They clearly illustrate the trend. [photos in document section Niger discussion]

Final remark....there's an urgent need to mainstream sustainable land management in national poicy frameworks such as the PRSPs, but that means convincing ministers of Finance and Economics....and this will be a lot easier when we have hard data to show that it is economically rational to invest more in drylands..............but such data are scarce...so we have to go out and collect them....if not we can't mainstream understanding, which is needed to get commitment and action.
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    Jan 2, 2009
    To prepare the Sahel study USAID funded through IRG's FRAME program a pilot study in Niger's Tahoua Department, which was carried out in February 2005. It was all about testin a questionnaire and get a feeling for longer term trends in agriculture, environment and rural poverty. The study was done in 4 villages, which had all 4 been part of SWC programs, which promoted different technologies and different approaches.

    In 3 of the 4 villages all men and women interviewed were perfectly clear that the level of household food security had improved since the early 1990s and this improvement was not related to higher rainfall, but to investment in land rehabilitation. In all 4 villages there's a lot more vegetation now than 15 years ago. In one of the villages this is mainly due to tree planting along bunds by the Keita project. In another one mainly a combination of planting and protecting natural regeneration and in the other two mainly due to on-farm protection and management of natural regeneration. It's obvious that all villages have seen a substantial increase in their physical assets during the last 15 years.

    Land rehabilitation has not had any impact on groundwater levels in one of the villages..., but it seems to have had this in the three others. In village no.2 the level of water in wells is so high that individual families have started to make wells in their courtyards. In village 3 water levels were 18 m deep in 1994 and 4 m. deep at the end of 2004. Village 4 is located in a valley and it had seen a fall in groundwater levels, but due to the recent construction of a water spreading dam in the valley....grondwater levels had improved.....and in reaction they had expanded the area under irrigation during the dry season. Besides this...due to the construction of the water spreading dam they had expanded the area under crops based on residual soil moisture. Those of you who have seen the power point of Niger...may remember the vast expanse of land under "dolichos lablab" as well as the land irrigated during the dry season. Bear in mind that we're talking here about the dry season of 2004 - 2005 !. There is reason to believe that local improvements in groundwater levels have little to do with years of good rainfall.....but everything with increased infiltration due to the presence of water harvesting techniques.

    In 3 or the 4 villages one finds both men and women who have participated in the land market.....which means in the active buying and selling of degraded land to rehabilitate it. This is a common feature since simple land rehabilitation techniques (planting pits and half moons) were introduced around 1990.

    There has also been a lot of local capacity building (social capital)....with women in one village impressively organized to manage and defend their rehabilitated fields. They were all widows or divorced...so a partyicularly vulnerable group. In another village the women had more than a 100 bags of cereals in February in their cereal bank. In another one they had developed considerable commercial activities.

    Rainfall.....I've seen remarks about rainfall in Niger just having been 15% below average. The villagers of Batodi were clear about rainfall....we've just had two big rains last season and our cereals failed completely. It's not a matter of total rainfall, but also of its distribution...but here I'm kicking in an open door. 2004 seems to have been the worst year since 1984. Nevertheless the villagers in Batodi where the level of water in wells had increasd from - 18 to -4 m. had started to make small irrigated gardens around two wells. In one of them a group of women cultivated vegetables...in the other onions were the dominant crop.

    What is most impressive in Niger is the scale of farmer-managed natural regeneration.....my guesstimate is that it concerns about 2 million hectares, but that remains to be underpinned by hard data. For the geberal context...see the special issue of the Journal of Arid Environments 63 (2005), which is a special issue on the Greening of the Sahel. Look in particular at the article by Olsson et al. on "A recent greening of the Sahel - trends, patterns and potential causes. No groundtruthing, only interpretation of satellite images...but these show the extent of greening. This issue also contains an article written by Adama Belemvire, Gray Tappan and myself about the changes on the Central Plateau of Burkina.

    An IFAD evaluation report for its project in Aguie district..Maradi department estimates that due to project facilitation FMNR has been promoted on about 60,000 ha of farmland. We're talking about one district and about tree densities of at least 80 trees/ha. We hope that the study started in Niger can shed some more light on this. Now Maradi department was one of the regions most severely hit by the famine and this region was visited by Kofi Annan.

    I can't say yet whether Aguie district fared better than other parts of Maradi department where FMNR is less developed. Hope the research team can shed light on this. It's obvious that the substantial land rehabilitation in Tahoua department has improved food security as also in 2004 - 2005 vegetables have been grown on many thousands of hectares...and the total area under irrigation has expanded during the last decade mainly due to the construction of water spreading dams, but in some cases also due to rehabilitation of degraded plateaus.

    Last week I made a presentation for staff of IFAD's West and Central Africa Division....they were understandably in quite a somber mood about the famine in Niger...."IFAD has invested for 20 years in agriculture in Niger and it seems not to have made any difference". The message that I tried to get across was....don't despair....IFAD's investments in land rehabilitation have made a substantial difference...and I showed the earlier mentioned power point to illustrate some of the aspects mentioned above. The project controller for Niger left the next day for Niamey and had the strong intention to show the PP to the minister of agriculture.

    There's a lot more to say about the crisis in Niger...but let's see what the Niger team doing the ex-post impact assessment of a number of NRM investments has come up with during the first six weeks.

    During my stay in Nger and Burkina I'll try to monitor the discussion....but the internet in Niger is very slow and I'll be some days outside of Niamey.

    Am attaching two photos of the same village in the Tahoua department provided by Gray Tappan....made respectively in 1975 and in 2003. They clearly illustrate the trend. [photos in document section Niger discussion]

    Final remark....there's an urgent need to mainstream sustainable land management in national poicy frameworks such as the PRSPs, but that means convincing ministers of Finance and Economics....and this will be a lot easier when we have hard data to show that it is economically rational to invest more in drylands..............but such data are scarce...so we have to go out and collect them....if not we can't mainstream understanding, which is needed to get commitment and action.
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    Jan 2, 2009
    When I think about these questions, a few responses come quickly to mind. In Niger and elsewhere in the Sahel, people have certainly responded, reacted, even anticipated drought and chronic food shortages, and actively sought out alternative sources of income and more secure and sustainable livelihoods. It is significant that the majority of rural producers have used ingenuity and locally available resources to respond - to adapt - -and contrary to perceptions that might emerge from the media coverage of the drought and recent famine - they have not simply waited for food relief or emergency assistance. More attention could be given to the resiliency, resourcefulness and innovations of farmers and other entrepreneurs in Niger and the region. And to the interventions and contributing factors that have helped to encourage successful adaptations and responses...so that they can be generalized and applied more widely.

    In terms of interventions or "responses", the case of farmer managed natural regeneration is a good illustration (and well described by Chris Reij and others). It enabled farmers to diversify and increase their income through the production and sale of firewood as well as cereals and other crops - and the regeneration of shrubs and woody plant cover also helped to counter the effects of wind erosion on what had been barren, denuded fields in the dry season.

    In addition to the expansion of "tree crops", there are also more and more cases of diversified, intensified and increased, more secure food production related to the expansion of small scale dry season irrigated crops.

    I think that the increases in yields in rainfed crops as well as the recovery and rehabilitation of land that had been abandoned as depleted and unproductive farmland through the increasingly widespread use of soil and water conservation measures (SWC) such as zai / tassa, demi-lunes, stone lines, dikes and other CES/DRS erosion control and soil fertility management techniques is very impressive in and around Ileala and Badaguicheri and elsewhere in the Sahel (Yatenga / Mossi plateau in Burkina).

    NRM investments have certainly contributed to these field level impacts and improvements with respect to more secure livelihoods, effective reductions in rural poverty and reduced vulnerability to drought and famine. To begin with, it is important to underscore and appreciate that NRM investments have evolved significantly over the past 15-20 years. I sense, however, that many decision makers and senior officials of governments and aid agencies continue to view NRM as tree planting and have a stereotyped view of NRM as a marginal and even unimportant investment. In fact, NRM program investments have gone well beyond tree planting, windbreaks, promotion of agroforestry and SWC techniques to support a range of crucially important interventions related to "Nature, Wealth and Power" (see discussion paper prepared in 2002 with USAID leadership for the World Summit on Sustainable Development).

    After taking advantage of many lessons learned and as a result of systematic and progressive "capitalization des experiences" over the past decade or more, the latest generation of NRM/NWP type programs have frequently contributed to the emergence and strengthening of rural development organizations as "building blocks" for a range of activities that directly and indirectly reduce vulnerability to droughts and famines, including the establishment of cereal banks, the development of micro-finance institutions and rural credit unions and improved relations with government and private sector business development service providers. NRM/NWP programs have contributed to the development of civil society and advocated more effective decentralization at the field level, including the transfer and strengthening of rights to control access and use of natural resources and other productive assets. Improvements in local governance have improved relations with the Forest Service and other state agencies, and helped to combat corruption and other practices that worked against the sustainable and production use of natural resources and their improved management and regeneration. And these programs have contributed to the development of rural natural resource based micro enterprises and increased local processing and expanded marketing of a wide array of products from shea nut and baobab fruit to fonio and sesame seeds, and directly increased incomes at the household level among rural producers. All of this is on top of the production increases (from higher crop yields) and direct benefits such as higher water tables and indirect benefits in terms of nutrition, health, literacy and education that are increasingly associated with NRM investments.

    In connection with utilizing the "NWP" framework to inspire and guide such investments, these programs have been successful and achieved results and lasting impacts through attention to two particularly important aspects: 1) policy reforms and other interventions designed to establish the favorable enabling conditions for scaling up the behaviour changes and local investments that are needed, such as reforms of the Forest Code and new roles for the Forest Service and 2) local level capacity building and promotion of innovations through study tours, farmer to farmer exchanges and short training courses to familiarize producers with new and improved techniques, upgrading of business skills, literacy training and other essential topics. Are the donor agencies and governments that initially backed these efforts fully aware of the pay-offs?

    These comments reflect a bit of my perspective - and I'd be very interested to know if others could cite similar trends and examples, or have a different view of how to respond to Dr. Magha's questions. In any event, please do have a look at the attached documents on Nature Wealth and Power, and Investing in Tomorrow's Forests, which I feel are highly relevant to this discussion.
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    Jan 5, 2009
    Thanks Bob for inviting me on this forum. I took a trip recently to Niger
    to find out whether NRM efforts that were carried out in the past 20 years
    had made a difference for communities living in the Maradi area. I was
    stunned by what I witnessed in Dan Saga near Aguie. I wrote a short report
    on that trip which I posted on the forum (also attached below). Basically, farmers from 36
    villages have thoroughly adopted FMNR techniques. They typically grow an
    average of 100-150 trees / ha ! During the food crisis, the community
    escaped the worse by selling firewood. They have such a surplus that they
    are thinking of establishing a firewood market in order to reach Niamey
    and northern Nigeria !
    Apparently, the key success factors were :
    1. A feeling of emergency ( which they described as "on avait le chalumeau
    aux fesses ...") when the villages faced desertification in the early 80's
    2. The establishment of community-led control mechanisms involving herders
    3. The perseverance, in spite of initial failure, of a group of motivated
    people determined to move on with FMNR
    Are you aware of qualified FMNR people whom I might use in similar
    projects in Senegal for World Vision ?
    Have a good day.
    Eric toumieux
    Directeur World Vision Senegal
    ************************************************
    Eric Toumieux
    National Director
    World Vision Senegal
    Tel : 221-8651724
    Fax : 221-8651718
    Cel : 221-5691761
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    -- Updated Jan 5, 2009 --
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      Jan 5, 2009
      (From Bob Winterbottom)
      Eric - thank you for this contribution, dialogue and posting. I have
      asked our team based in Senegal for ideas about local specialists and do
      not yet have some specific names and contacts for you, but will follow
      up.

      It is encouraging to take stock of positive changes and progress - and I
      agree wholeheartedly with the three key factors you have mentioned that
      are behind these changes...

      * having your "back against the wall" and the case of necessity
      being the mother of invention is quite true. I would add that it is
      useful to organize farmer to farmer visits to give a community an
      opportunity to "see the future" by visiting areas that have been more
      degraded and have managed to recover - this can help to prompt earlier
      reactions and responses from communities before the situation becomes
      dire - as people are often aware of where things are headed, but not
      sure what to do about it, and seeing firsthand what can be done is
      helpful.

      * Yes, local controls, codes, conventions, rules governing access
      and use are an essential part of improved NRM and set the stage for
      FMNR. We can have quite a discussion on the best ways, effective
      approaches to facilitate and adopt such codes, along with changes in the
      roles of key stakeholders that need to be on board to make them work
      (civil society, local Forest Service agents, as well as community
      leaders, producer groups, private sector operators). How these codes
      affect or reinforce the transfer of rights (property, ownership,
      management, harvesting, utilization, etc.) is key, along with the
      provisions made for local monitoring and enforcement. The issue of
      equity and how the rules affect different user groups and stakeholders
      dependent on various resources is also important.

      * Yes, local leadership, inspired visions and having "champions"
      is very important - and it is interesting to consider how to stimulate
      and support the emergence and influence of such champions.

      Bob
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    Jan 5, 2009
    First, I would like to thank and recognize Dr. Magha for initiating and monitoring this important discussion. As he noted this is not a “debate about on the famine in Niger, its causes and multiple consequences. Rather it aims to draw lessons “on the relevance and the role of NRM investments in food crisis prevention,” and, as Dr. Magha notes, to capitalize on those lessons to reduce the number and impacts of future famines.

    This discussion is relevant and timely.  Even as this discussion is being held, decision makers are making plans or taking steps that will impact on the numbers and impacts of future famines. Discussions like this allow a broader group of people to bring their experiences, knowledge, and thoughts to bear on those critical decisions. 

    I would like to cover four topics in this contribution: Poverty, Famine, and Despair; A Historical Context: NRM as a Vehicle for Combating Poverty, Famine, and Despair; and A Process of Capitalizing on lessons.

    Famine, Poverty and Despair. Dr. Magha’s introduction rightly connects famine with poverty. As he noted, the overall food production in Niger last year was lower than average but not exceptionally low. Access to food, not availability, was at the root of much of the problem. I would strengthen the connection by arguing that the fight against famine can be successfully waged only as long as countries can gain ground in the fight against poverty. And, I would further argue that we need to fight poverty in its full dimension. To paraphrase the paper on Uganda’s Program to Modernize Agriculture: “Poverty is more than a lack of financial and material means; it also a feeling of helplessness of being able to do anything about getting out of poverty.”

    As people look forward in identifying what to do in Niger, they need to promote approaches that transform feelings of helplessness into self-reliancy. Put another way, people must avoid approaches that build dependencies. History makes compelling cases for the following:

      1. The outcome of the next natural disaster will depend upon how self-reliant the vulnerable populations have become in terms of providing for food and other basics.
      2. Self-reliancy can be strengthened even as emergency food is delivered to those in urgent need of that food. As will be illustrated in an example in the following section, there is nothing inconsistent with simultaneously doing everything necessary to get food to desperately hungry people and building the foundations for self-reliancy.

    NRM as a vehicle to Combat Famine, Poverty and Despair. As noted above, this contribution is built on the premise that NRM is an effective vehicle for fighting poverty and famine. The debate, I think, is not on whether NRM is effective but, rather, to what extent? The contributions of Reij and Winterbottom provided multiple examples and references. There is no need for me to add more general cases to support the premise. However, I will add an account of a field visit by Eric Toumieux, the Director of World Vision in Senegal, to Niger to observe the results of the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) Approach.

    But, first a short background to FMNR. Tony Rinaudo of the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM), in collaboration with the Niger Forestry Service, initiated the FMRN in the wake of the severe 1984 drought. Tony’s group delivered foodstuffs to people who were unable to grow a crop and had no other options to get food (much like many of those facing starvation today). As food was delivered, Tony and his Nigerien colleagues provided food recipients with training on the management of naturally-regenerated field trees such that the trees produced fuel and construction materials as well as increased crop productivity. The Government of Niger made policy and institutional changes in the project area that gave farmers more authority and protection over the field trees. The recent account by Toumieux provided a snapshot of FMRN 20 years after its initiation:
     
    ”I just came back from Niger where I witnessed the successful efforts of a community of 36 villages to set in place sustainable mechanisms to overcome natural disasters. I was absolutely amazed by what I saw. In an environment very similar to that of Diourbel (350 mm of rain, widespread millet and peanut farming, threats of desertification with sand encroachment and dust winds), these 36 villages have set in place a mechanism to encourage natural regeneration of trees on their fields. The results are astounding: each farmer now leaves an average of 100-200 bush trees to regenerate on his field instead of chopping them down before the rainy season.

    Newly regenerated trees are protected by a committee composed of farmers (both men and women) and herders. Farmers have learned pruning and trimming techniques that allow trees to grow fast vertically, so as not to hinder the growth of millet under them. This year, when a deadly combination of locusts and drought stroke the entire area, farmers in the villages overcame the tragedy by selling firewood as well as by-products from the trees. As a result, there is no need for any food distribution in this community unlike what is happening elsewhere in Niger. Village authorities are even planning to set up a wood market in the area so that they can export their surplus to the capital city and to neighboring Nigeria with better prices! 

    The key, village authorities told us – is the set up of control mechanisms by the community at the very start of the project. This can only be done if the desertification is felt as a real threat to their livelihood by farmers, as was the case in the villages near Aguié in Niger.”

    The vignette underscores the connection between NRM and food security but, perhaps even more powerfully, it pointed to NRM as providing powerful reasons for people to come together, to make rules and follow those rules—the essence of effective democracy. And, it showed how a population, that was probably previously vulnerable to natural disasters, had taken control and reduced that vulnerability. As noted in Chris Reij’s contribution, there are thousands of hectares of land in Niger treated with FMNR. (Chris, Gray Tappan of the USGS, and I also saw FMNR in northeast Burkina Faso on a field whose owner said that he got the idea from a trip to Niger.)

    The main point of above vignette was not to say that FMRN would help all communities reduce their vulnerability. FMNR is only one technology and does not do all things for all people—there are many other options. The main point was to show how responses to natural disasters can, with the proper planning and foresight, empower people and help them to reduce their vulnerability at the same time that they get vital food to them.

    Seeing the Crisis in a 35-year Context.  The current crisis is not the first nor, unfortunately, will it be the last. As noted in the Dr. Magha’s introduction, “food crises in Niger have been repetitive during the last few decades.” History tells us that the manner in which people respond to this crisis will affect the magnitude and breadth of future crises. It also underscores that we ignore the lessons and knowledge of the past experiences at the peril of current and future victims. To be able to most effectively respond to the current crisis, we need to understand the relevant changes over these decades and how people responded to those changes. This contribution will not go into detail about those changes but will attempt to provide trends and identify perturbations that reduced coping options.

    First, it is important to note that the population of the 1960s, about a third or less than today’s population, allowed people options to cope with natural disasters that they do not have today. Before the 1970’s, farmers in much of Niger used fallow to regenerate soil fertility, produce browse for livestock, harvest water to recharge water tables, etc. In many areas today, there is relatively little fallow except, perhaps, abandoned and degraded land. Before the 1970’s, there were still large areas of natural pasture that provided pastoralists with some buffer in a bad year—a natural buffer that is largely gone today. And, these fallowed lands provided rural communities with forest and non-forest products that helped people diversify their household economies. With the loss of these options, people needed to look for new ways to survive natural disasters and to prosper.

    While the loss of coping strategies did not totally account for the food crisis today, it would be informative to know how many of todays victims came from families that no longer had a range of options with which to help them cope. How many of these communities went from a high level of self-reliancy to a sense of helplessness in the face of natural disasters?

    But, during the 35-year period, we also know of populations that did not become helpless in the face of natural disasters. They coped and some moved out of poverty and beyond. Just as in the case of the 36 communities described above, people had options to cope with drought and locust attacks. They organized; they intensified their production systems; and they diversified their economies. So, just as people are now trying to find out more about the groups of people in Niger who are hardest hit by the food crisis, should we not be finding out more about those who coped and who appeared to have gotten control over their circumstances as they successfully faced a natural disaster?

    To take stock of the populations that coped, let me add a couple of questions to Dr. Magha’s list:

    1 What were the impacts from the NRM initiatives described by Reij and Winterbottom and others? How many benefited from the initiatives: Did those who invested in NRM number in the tens-of-thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions? 

    2. What were the conditions that led to the uptake of NRM technologies and systems? In other words, what did the governments, populations, and partners do to increase the incentives for people to invest in NRM (e.g., policy and institutional reforms, training, communications, infrastructure, etc.)?

    3. Were there special conditions associated with the uptake of NRM technologies and systems? And, what were the conditions that provided disincentives and slowed the rate of investing in NRM?

    4. What is the potential for these impacts to be scaled up? (Where are the populations that could be helped by the lessons or have all the appropriate sites been treated?)

    5. For the impacts to be scaled up through broader investments in NRM, what has to be done, what has to change, and who must take actions?    

    A Process for Capitalizing Experiences and Lessons. As Bob Winterbottom noted, to fully capitalize the lessons from NRM initiatives, senior decision makers in other sectors (particularly those that deal with poverty reduction, economic growth and democratization) need to be engaged in dialogue with their colleagues in the NRM sectors. The NRM community can have long discussions on how NRM is a great vehicle for reducing poverty, but little will change if the Poverty Reduction community does not engage with the NRM community on that question. On the one hand, as Bob noted, many people see NRM activities narrowly (such tree planting) and not connected to revenue generation or democratization. On the other, many NRM practitioners who spend time in the field see NRM as a vibrant and effective vehicle for poverty reduction, economic growth and democratization. From the second perspective, decision makers involved in such national strategies as Poverty Reduction and Democratization would readily accept collaboration with the NRM community because it would them achieve their objectives—not necessarily because it would be good for NRM.
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      Les échanges qu'il y a eu jusqu'à présent sont très interessantes. Ils permettent de faire ressortir toute l'importance et tout l'intérêt des investissements GRN dans le modelage du paysage, la préservation voir la transformation des exploitations agricoles, la gouvernance locale et la gestion décentralisée des ressources naturelles collectives ... Il est très important effectivement de rappeler que la GRN ne se résume pas à la foresterie et qu'il existe une multitude de pratiques et de connaissances dont les effets positifs sur la sécurité alimentaire sont évidents tant dans les zones semi-arides que dans les zones à climat soudanais. En principe la GRN a encore sa place dans les politiques de développement de nos pays. Mais, il sera très difficile de convaincre les gouvernements et leurs partenaires sur une profession de foi ou des convictions techniques personnelles.

      Dans un monde hypermonétarisé, il faut pouvoir démontrer que les avantages et bénéfices tirés des investissements GRN (court, moyen et long terme) sont davantage supérieurs aux coûts engendrés. Il y a sans aucun doute des exemples d'évaluation de la rentabilité économique voire financière de telle ou telle opération GRN, mais sont-ils extrapolables à moment donné, pour une zone géographique aussi étendue que le Niger (ou l'Afrique de l'Ouest) pour servir de base objective pour un gouvernement de prendre la décision de s'engager dans des investissements structurants (suceptibles de faire face à l'insécurité alimentaire structurelle par exemple) plutôt que de dépenser de grandes énergies pour faire face à des crises alimentaires conjoncturelles comme oin l'a vu dans le cas du Niger.

      Bien entendu, une telle évaluation pose le problème de l'identification des pratiques promues, des acteurs qui interviennent, des frais d'approche dans la promotion d'une technique donnée et de l'évaluation de son adoption. C'est pour cela que la réponse à la question de Tony Pryor est difficile à apporter, du moins si l'on veut faire référence à des données quantitatives pouvant par la suite servir de base pour les calculs économiques. Mais peut-être que quelqu'un quelque part à déjà fait ce type d'exercice?

      On est également tenté de se poser une autre question qui devrait interesser les bailleurs de fonds et nous mêmes. Quel aurait été les coûts social, économique ou financier pour la région de Keita (Niger) ou dans le Yatenga (Burkina) aujourd'hui en 2005, si tous ces investissements structurants n'avaient pas été faits, il y a une vingtaine d'année?

      Magha I. Mohamadou
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      Two Views of NRM in Niger and scaling up

      The numerous observations and accounts of natural resource management and its benefits in the past drought are tremendously encouraging. The question continues to be posed: How to scale up? How to mainstream?

      Efforts by NRM practitioners/promoters to mainstream NRM in Niger (and elsewhere in the Sahel) must deal with what I perceive to be a wide gap separating their view from the view of those whose can cause NRM to be mainstreamed. The recent famine crisis serves to bring into focus the divergent views.

      Once again mid-drought and post drought field studies (by Chris Reij and his African colleagues among others) and observations are revealing how the outcome of NRM (SWC, "agroforested" fields and woodlots) have buffered people from the impacts of drought and enhanced the resilience of local agroecosystems. I say"once again", because 30 years ago Rochette and his African colleagues chronicled for CILSS the beginnings of these efforts arising from responses to the late 70’s early 80’s drought years, while later observations in the 1990’s by Chris Reij and his African colleagues recorded for IFAD the positive impacts of zai planting pits and other SWC in both good and not so good rainfall years. Field observations, air and ground photographs, case studies and hard data are accumulating to make a persuasive case for a more aggressive extension of SWC, agroforestry, forestation, assisted regeneration, and other NRM as the sine qua non of sustainable dryland farming livelihoods and survival in this part of Africa.

      The question is posed: With so much evidence why are these practices not being wholeheartedly promoted and given priority in donor and national programs at least on par with the push for technological advances in agriculture developed by research? – drought resistant crops, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides , irrigation. Actually, ICRISAT Sahel’s web site identifies a number of native tree species from the Sahelian-Soudanian zone that hold income potential. But many if not most NRM solutions that farmers have adopted over the past 25-30 years have not originated in research centers.

      There exist at least two views about NRM that are separated by a considerable information and perception gap. One view is that of decision makers at the higher level of government and in international agencies who work with a mix of policy, programs and politics and with the immediacy of finance and budgets as these affect agriculture and the rural populations…and even national solvency. These decision makers allocate resources and are in a position to harness government resources to "mainstream" NRM and to remove obstacles that could discourage greater NRM in the countryside.

      A very different view is that of NRM advocates and promoters whose focus is on the reality of the farm or pastoral livelihood system; on soils, water, forests and pastures management; and recently on the terroir and landscape context for these (e.g. landuse intensity mapping and low level air photos by USGS’s Gray Tappan and work through USAID’s SANREM project), in the short and long term. These advocates do not occupy positions of power in government or in development assistance organizations, but they have become increasingly effective in presenting the case for mainstreaming NRM.

      The two views have been informed by information that is very different in spatial resolution, statistical aggregation, geographic coverage, and time frames, and I believe that this is both a symptom of the information/perception gap and the key to its resolution. NRM advocates need to bridge the gap that separates their understanding from the other one which informs high level decision makers and those with the power to make financial resources available and to implement pro-NRM policies.

      The demonstrated improvements in livelihood and sustainability in farms and villlages thanks to NRM that have been revealed by case studies now need be interpreted and analyzed for increasingly large areas and the data aggregated for meaningful landscape units (not necessarily administrative units), ultimately to be expressed at the national scale. This would bridge the information and understanding gap that I believe now stands between NRM advocates and high level decisions makers who are informed by data and information aggregated at national and regional scale. This I see as one of the keys to mainstreaming.

      Five years ago USAID’s Mike McGahuey, then attached to USAID’s Africa Bureau, commissioned me to undertake an analysis of the potential range of NRM practices that have proven to be effective, as evidenced by site-specific field observations. I referred to a number of case studies that chronicled the outcome of planting pits in Niger and Burkina Faso, studied by Shaikh et al and Hassane, Reij and others, respectively. I had geo-referenced the locations of these documented cases for DEVECOL/Africa, an information resource for sustainable rural development on compact disk that is now on line at www.devecol.org (go to Geo e-Links Africa).

      I analyzed general environmental characteristics (terrain, soils, agroclimate) and used existing digital maps of these parameters to identify those regions in sub-Saharan Africa where planting pits could be a way to restore degraded soils, enhance production and ameliorate the impact of low or deficient rainfall. The study is available for reading online on the devecol web site at http://www.devecol.org/DevecolAfrica/Intro/Background%20papers.htm.

      The small scale (1:5,000,000) and generalized classifications used in the maps of soils and agro climate prevented anything but a very qualified answer to the question: Where else in Africa could planting pits be useful and worth extending? However, even with qualifications (mainly recommendations for field verification and further analysis at larger scales), the exercise yielded the definition of areas with soils, terrain and climates where such structures offer potential.

      For me, the information gap that separates the two view points mentioned (decision makers, NRM practitioners) was brought into focus by the question of geographic scale and the problems I had extrapolating the range of effective practices dcoumented at specific sites. The small scale maps I had to use posed important limitations for extrapolating – limitations which pointed to the need for follow up field reconnoiters in promising regions and more detailed map analyses.

      For high level decision makers, small scale maps of land use, population, poverty and other themes are the usual source of geographic information, and they are consistent with the data aggregation units with which they work (e.g. provinces, planning regions, etc.). Maps at this scale of soils and vegetation are not adequate, however, for an analysis of the geographic scope of promising NRM and for allocating resources and effort. Rather, medium to large scale maps of soils, land use, land cover and terrain are required so as to delineate with adequate precision those areas, such as degraded lateritic soils or glacis, where water harvesting via zai or demi lunes could be effective and other soils/terrain combinations where other NRM measures would be the effort.

      Medium scale maps of 1:250,000, 1:200,000 or larger would be needed for analyzing the geographic range of NRM practices at, for instance the equivalent of the provincial level, but considerable field verification would be required, particularly if there are no soil maps with detail consistent with these scales, e.g. maps of soils association and soil types and which identify degraded or problem soils.

      Working from the farm and village level, i.e. very large scale (where we now have numerous observations and case studies) to the landscape scale, e.g. entire districts, would be assisted by the low level transect flights with hand held camera, of the sort that USGS’s Gray Tappan is taking of areas in Mali, Burkina and Niger. Air photos of transect overflights already taken by Gray show extensive application of SWC and tree planting or conservation in diverse landscapes, and these images indicate the extent to which NRM is being spontaneously implemented in areas beyond where we have case studies. More traditional large scale aerial photography could be justified for district level NRM assessment and planning purposes, but recently available high resolution (1 meter or less) satellite imagery could also be commissioned once the coordinates of specific areas of interest have been identified.

      NRM advocates must gather and analyze statistics that reveal the differences between farming without NRM and with NRM at levels beyond the village. Statistically designed sample field surveys must be undertaken in areas where NRM has spread spontaneously or with assistance. Samples should be stratified to capture the influence of terrain, soils and other natural resource features. Factors influencing intensification of soil and water management must be identified and spatial parameters defined so as to allow their mapping (e.g. population densities at which intensification becomes rentable if not imperative in a given soils/climate; the price of food, firewood, charcoal or poles in local or regional markets which justifies, for instance, growing trees or contra saison vegetables for sale. Access to markets as a function of transportation networks and transport is a related consideration. I won’t mention socio-economic variables which are already well defined(tenure, farm size, family composition, etc.) and surveyed. However, these socio-economic and cultural variables must be sampled and mapped for the same landscape units and sample units used in NRM surveys.

      These exercises would also help locate the problems associated with transhumant cattle herds in their yearly migrations between the pastoral zone and the dryland farming zones in the south where dry season pastures and browse resources are shrinking, possibly owing to better protection by villages of forested areas.

      Traditional remote sensing (aerial photography, oblique hand held photos) and more recent,increasingly precise (high resolution) satellite imagery and radar imagery offer mapping and analysis tools that NRM advocates must harness in order to not only illustrate but to extrapolate and quantify the economic and geographic potentials of NRM so as to achieve greater productivity and sustainability of rainfed farming and animal husbandry in Niger and other Sahelian countries. In essence the information must ultimately be made commensurable with the other aggregated information that is the basis for decision-making in the agriculture sector.

      And lest we become dispirited by the consequences of population growth, I recommend the words of the late Frances Gulick, who worked for the Club de Sahel in its early years and later USAID’s Africa Bureau. Her credo was: "Development is an act of faith".

      Peter Freeman SWC Soill and water conservation
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        Without specific knowledge of Niger, I would yet offer the following in
        response.

        The World Bank and donors have conflated development and trade
        objectives - simply put, export agriculture on irrigated lands supported
        by foreign direct investment - decreasing attention to traditional food
        crops, dryland agriculture, and small holder livelihoods. Fact, little
        or no investment in food crop or dryland agricultural research,
        extension and support. Little or no recognition of the role of (or
        support to) non tradables. No serious attention to the
        poverty-environment linkage. And so on. Result declining agricultural
        productivity with related extensification out onto increasingly degraded
        soils. While the press, then, can write editorial upon editorial re the
        weather and or the failure of emergency response by the donors, it pays
        little or no heed to the fundamental failure of development policy.

        Owen Cylke
        WWF/MPO

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Date CreatedFriday, January 2, 2009 2:44 PM
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