Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration and Wildlife

April 17, 2014

The reasons for individuals and communities embracing the practice of Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) often relate to improved crop yields, diversification of income sources and increased income.

However, when we run community workshops, we often ask three questions:

  1. What was the environment like when you were young?
  2. What is the environment like now?
  3. What will it be like if our practices do not change?

As communities dream about the environment they want to leave for their children and grandchildren, individuals often say “I want my children to be able to climb trees, pick wild fruits, experience the peace of being in a green setting and be able to see wildlife in the bush rather than just in books.

As communities have embarked on the FMNR journey, restoring trees in forests, farms, grazing lands and wastelands, the return of wildlife has been a (mostly) welcome side benefit.

The return of wildlife is not always good news for farmers. Monkeys, baboons and pigs can raid crops while snakes and other animals can pose a risk to people.

Some communities have been able to turn a negative to a positive by starting ecotourism programs such as ‘Walking with the Baboons’. in Kenya. Some have devised management plans to minimise the damage/risk associated with the return of wildlife,

In Kiambogoko, Mrs Musa has found that FMNR has reduced the number of snakes because there are less thorny shrubs at ground level and more trees.

In Niger where over 5 million hectares of farmland have been restored to higher producing agroforestry parklands, the woody habitat has allowed lizards and chameleons to increase in numbers and tackle the insect pests in crops and cattle egrets (which will only nest in certain trees) have returned to spend their days eating insects in the millet. Many farmers now recognize the benefits of having natural insect and rodent predators in their farms and are happy to leave the trees for that reason.

Lizards eat many insect pests but they need trees to shelter from their predators (left)
The increase in trees on farms in Niger has provided more nesting sites for cattle egrets (right)

In Talensi, Ghana, 575 households adopted the FMNR approach and the Social Return on Investment was found to be 6:1 by the end of the first (three year) phase of the project (2011). At that time, Edward Agumah (Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana) said “[Community members] can get wildlife from there now that bush burning and destruction of forest has disappeared. They [The wild animals] are even coming back to breed. This means meat. Animals include rabbits, partridge, birds, antelope, native rats, monitor lizards, snakes … Before, the land was so bare, there was nowhere for these animals. Now that there is natural regeneration of the shrubs, it is returning to how it was 100 years ago: forest.”

One village in the Talensi district was very proud that a python that had taken up residence in their new forest.

In Humbo, Ethiopia, if you climb the once barren hill of 2,728 ha, a chorus of bird calls will greet you and antelope have returned.

The community of Kiambogoko started implementing FMNR 10 months ago, in July, 2013. The good news for wildlife is that the project has agreed with the Kenya Wildlife Service to work with the Community Forest Association to use FMNR to manage two 20 hectare pilot areas within the forest fenced by Rhino Ark for Wildlife. If the pilot plots are successful, there is the possibility of working with the Community Forest Association to use FMNR to manage all 8,713 ha of the enclosed area within the Mau Forest.

Liz is travelling with her husband, Tony Rinaudo, Natural Resources Advisor at World Vision Australia, promoting Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration of trees in India and Africa.