MONAR Introduces Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) to Students in Northern Ghana

June 24, 2015

The Founder and Executive Director of the Movement for Natural Regeneration (MONAR), Norbert Akolbila has observed that natural regeneration of degraded agricultural and communal woodlands in Northern Ghana potentially provides a cost-effective means for offsetting carbon emissions, and at the same time delivering immense benefits for biodiversity conservation through ecosystem restoration. Farmer-led agro-reforestation of degraded landscapes using native tree and shrub species, termed Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR), has been recognized as a sustainable agro-forestry technique which can contribute immensely to biodiversity conservation, food security as well as climate mitigation.

Mr. Akolbila, however, regretted that despite the potential of FMNR in halting the fast depleting tree cover in Ghana’s northern savannah ecological zones that are highly vulnerable to desertification, far less attention has been paid to this simple and cost effective intervention in order to restore native vegetations. Mr. Akolbila was speaking to the staff and students of Kongo Senior High School in the Nabdam District of Upper Region of Ghana on the importance of FMNR for promoting tree regeneration for sustainable development. In a presentation to more than 800 students and staff of the school on Wednesday, June 19, 2015, he said experiences from Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso attest that the widespread adoption of FMNR practices has been associated with a significant recovery of tree cover, security of key ecosystem services and improved livelihoods.

The MONAR Executive Director said the unsustainable exploitation of tree resources in Northern Ghana should be a major concern to local government authorities, educators and community leaders because of its long term negative consequences, including the degradation of water catchment areas, loss of biodiversity and worsening rural poverty. He said it is for this reason that FMNR has been introduced by World Vision International in four districts of the Upper East Region aimed at reversing environmental degradation as well as contributing to rural poverty reduction. The presentation covered the success story of FMNR pioneering project implementation in the Maradi region of southern Niger in the 1980s led by Tony Rinaudo of World Vision Australia. Mr. Akolbila said his mentor Tony Rinaudo was also instrumental in introducing this novel tree regeneration practice in the Talensi District of the region in 2009 through World Vision Ghana, of which he was part of.

The students and teachers were held spell bound by the magic of FMNR in tree regeneration during the photo presentation from Niger and Talensi. Students who came from communities where FMNR has been piloted in Talensi were visibly excited to see photos from their areas being shown. Mr. Akolbila and his team also educated the audience on the importance of planting and protecting indigenous trees and shrubs in their schools and communities. The benefit of trees is enormous in terms of restoring already degraded land, he said, urging the students to cultivate the habit of tree growing. In addition, tree cover is not only needed to halt environmental degradation in the communities, but trees also provide shade, stabilize the soil, and protect it from excessive sunshine and strong winds.

During questions and answers session, the students were asked to share the FMNR story with their families and community people. When asked whether they were satisfied with the current situation of tree cover in their communities and on their school compound, the students emphatically answered “No” in unison, signifying the message has gone down well with them. Asked if they can re-green their school environment through the practice of FMNR, the students answered “BIG YES”.

The highlight of the interaction was when the students and teachers moved out of the school Assembly Hall after the presentation to try their hands on practical FMNR by pruning some shrubs on the grounds under the guidance of the MONAR team.  Before the exercise began, Mr. Akolbila explained that it is always important to identify the taller and straight stems for conservation and protection while the smaller or bent ones are cut. He then demonstrated proper FMNR pruning techniques on a shrub and handed over the tools to the students for hands-on practice. In closing remarks, a teacher of the school-Mr.Dagban Justice said it was not unusual for school authorities to punish students by asking them “to cut off a number of shrubs within the compound” but with the knowledge in FMNR “from today onwards this will no longer be the case”. The students laughed as he made the remark. The Senior Housemaster, Mr.Nabwomya John on his part promised that the school will be full of trees within the next 3 to 4 years through FMNR”.

The MONAR school outreach activity is meant to raise awareness of FMNR among the youth, educate students and teachers on the need to grow trees, encourage them to act locally to combat environmental degradation and to demonstrate that land degradation although a serious problem, can be tackled with a collective sense of purpose through FMNR. Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) is a simple and cost effective technique for land restoration and re-vegetation of degraded lands. It involves the systematic re-growth and management of trees and shrubs from tree stumps, sprouting root systems or seeds. It involves pruning and thinning of stems and branches and the protection of re-growth from threats such as fire, livestock or human damage.

Movement for Natural Regeneration (MONAR). MONAR provides training and consultancy on Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration in Ghana and across Africa. For more information contact Norbert Akolbila (Executive Director) nakolbila@gmail.com