NRM programs and time? (1 answer)

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On this thread, I wanted to raise another issue, that is a significant theme within Tony's work on FMNR (farmer-managed natural resources.  A number of his papers are located just next door in the document section of this discussion space, plus there's a really good write up in the Investing in Tomorrow's Forests paper, pages 16-18.

The issue: the time lag implied by any NRM investment, especially those involving woody plants.  And how that time lag runs in the face of donor timeframes, especially compared with other investments.  Just how then do we SEE these changes, especially the system wide change that one is now seeing in Niger, when that change is truly decadal?  Moniotoring and reporting systems usually don't pick it up, and if they do, they may pick up the wrong thing - numbers of seedlings planted, etc. - rather than the income and spreading of  risk that may not kick in for 15 years. And while a short term drought gets attention,  longer term problems, and longer term solutions are often missed.  Or worse, everyone declares defeat because short term impacts (that most likely were either forced or misleading) seem to be so small.

 In fact, something like Tony's FMNR runs counter to the impact needs of most funding entities, and most local politicians. In the case of ag research, there was a time when key donors, such as USAID, turned away from such investments because the returns seemed so marginal.  Only to find, once they waited 10-15 years, that long term impact was significant, strategically valuable and systemic.  But it required an active effort to track long term change.  When NRM activities are seemingly only brought to the fore in the minds of policy leaders during short term droughts, how do we keey our eyes on the longer term prize?

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    Jan 2, 2009
    I would like to argue the case that there is a widespread misconception
    abroad 'that NRM innovations take a long time to give a return on
    investment.' Certainly there is a perception that in semi arid regions
    forestry and agro forestry schemes are very costly, long term and prone to

    My experience with fmnr is that - it is very cheap, very rapid and returns
    on investment begin from the first year. Doing very rough calculations, I
    came up with the following. In fact, this is a gross underestimate - a
    three year old trunk is worth much more than $1.50 - it would more likely
    be worth $5.00 and the total return after 6 years would greatly exceed
    what is estimated below.

    If the farmer prunes 5 stems on each of 40 stumps per hectare and harvests
    only one stem per stump per year, always encouraging a replacement, by the
    6th year, she/he could have an assured annual income into the future in
    the order of 70,000 cfa (US$ 120/year).
    Year 1
    40 stems x 0.10 cents
    $ 4.00
    Year 2
    40 stems x 0.70 cents
    $ 28.00
    Year 3
    40 stems x $1.50
    $ 60.00
    Year 4
    40 stems x $ 3.50
    $ 140.00
    Year 5
    40 stems x $ 3.50
    $ 140.00
    Year 6
    40 stems x $ 3.50
    $ 140.00

    $ 512.00
    [$1.00 = 500 CFA]

    The benefit to the soil, crops, livestock and environment in general could
    also be calculated. Soil fertility is increased and erosion decreased;
    mulch from leaf litter retains moisture and adds nutrients to the top
    soil, increasing crop yields; animals eat pods and leaves - when there is
    very little grass available and leave manure on the soil, benefiting
    crops; the wind break effect of trees protects crops and helps to settle
    nutrient rich dust from further afield. etc. etc. These benefits are
    tangible and begin from year one.

    To me, there is a case for awareness creation and for advocating to donors
    and governments that semi arid regions are not a write off as assumed, but
    they can be highly productive and respond well to restoration efforts
    through NRM which follows environmentally sound principles.


    Tony Rinaudo,
    Senior Country Program Coordinator,
    Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe team.
    World Vision Australia.
    Phone: 613 9287 2309
    Fax: 613 9287 2377.

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