Niger is greening?

In International Development, Natural Resource Management, Niger on February 10, 2007 at 8:04 pm

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted something, you know how the holidays can get, plus having two young kids and being a full-time student and part-time employed…you can clearly see where I find the time…

Just reading this article in the New York Times about trees in Niger. Apparently, Niger has more trees than 30 years ago, based on a detailed analysis of satellite imagery. If this is indeed true, this is really, really good news.

It’s been six years since I left Niger, and I was only there for just over 3 years. So, the Niger I know is more of a snapshot; However in the vegetation category I wouldn’t say they were doing so well. But, everything mentioned in this article, especially regarding the Gao tree, was very accurate. We were trained to help encourage this kind of natural resource management – trees are to be cultivated, not cleared.

The other good (or bad, depending on your P.O.V.) thing about this article was that there was no mention of invasive or non-native trees there, especially the Neem and Eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus trees are cool because they grow really fast and you can use them to sustainably meet your fencepost or roofing needs, but they have a tendency to suck a lot more water than other native trees. In fact, when I visited South Africa in ’99 they were telling us that SA was going to cut down all their apartheid-era eucalyptus forests to replace them with native species, for this very reason – there were so many eucalyptus trees planted that they were having a depreciative effect on SA’s water table. They are therefore not really sustainable for widespread use across Niger – maybe only near the river or the couple of permanent lakes/tributaries.

The neem tree is an awesome tree too, don’t get me wrong, it has tons of uses and grows really, really well in Niger, but it’s not native. The Gao and Baobab trees are – and farmers using these well-known native trees is very sustainable. Here’s an interesting Niger UNFAO Agroforestry project report that was probably background for the NYT article.

Mature, old Baobab and Gao trees are extremely beautiful trees, too (try doing a Google image search for them). They’re the kind of tree that gets etched into your mind; when you picture Niger you see these trees silhouetted against the sandy, orange sunset-lit sky with a Fulani kid herding a million dusty cattle across the fields. Just like the picture above.

  1. A Welsh teenager was so moved by her experience in visiting a Medecins Sans Frontieres project in the world’s poorest country that she has set up an online account with justgiving.com so that people can finance the project.18 year-old Ysgol Dyffryn Teifi sixth-former, Siriol Teifi visited Niger in West Africa last month to see for herself the situation a year on from the terrible famine of Autumn 2005.Back in November 2005, Siriol raised £2000 for Christian Aid’s Niger appeal by fasting for a week at school.Siriol has set up this webpage and an online account with justgiving.com so visitors can make donations online to Medecins Sans Frontieres with all the funds raised going to the Project in Maradi in the name of the people of Wales.http://cymorthniger.com/


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