World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, 17 June 2017
“Our Land. Our home. Our Future”
As we mark World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought it is important to remember that life can be tough for the 325million people that live in the drylands of Africa, where people rely heavily on natural resources through farming and forestry for their food and income. Deforestation, driven by the need for farmland and firewood, is leading to land degradation and desertification, reducing crop yields and soil fertility.
For example, In Burkina Faso it is estimated that desertification is costing the country 9% of national agricultural GDP annually which means lower incomes and loss of jobs.
But there is hope! To counter deforestation and desertification, TREE AID is working with the government of Burkina Faso to give communities rights to manage their forests and trees..
We know that where rural communities control forests, they are able to reduce deforestation and manage forests sustainably. A crucial constraint, however, is that individual forest producers find it difficult to access market information for non-timber forest products. TREE AID’s role is to help forest producers to organise themselves into Village Tree Enterprises that enable their members to share labour, benefit from efficiencies of scale and have more bargaining power.
With the support of TREE AID, Village Tree Enterprises are better able to capitalise on their forest resources. Currently, the forests provide more than £13 million per year to the economy of the districts that TREE AID is working in, which is the equivalent of 22,200 minimum wage jobs in Burkina Faso.
Kazengo Bazengbamarich is one of the forest producers who joined the programme. Kazengo is over 70 and a grandmother; she remembers a time when the forest was lush and dense and the community could gather all that they needed from the edge of the forest.
Kazengo welcomes the protection of the forest. She says
Through the TREE AID programme you can see where the forest is protected and where is not protected. We can already get fruits from the protected area, the other area is barren. I would like to see more areas protected because we can get food and shea to make income. I can also save some money because I can collect deadwood from the ground and use this for fuel instead of buying wood.
Kazengo has planted shea trees using a grafting technique that she learnt from TREE AID. This speeds up the growing process, and a tree that would take 20 years to bear nuts can be ready to harvest after 5 or 6 years. Kazengo and her community are optimistic about the future, she says
When I plant trees, I don’t plant them for me, I know I will not pick their nuts or sit in their shade, they are for my children and my grandchildren
She wants her grandchildren to benefit from employment in the shea industry and is pleased that they are interested in learning and using new technology to extract oil from shea nuts, which has a growing market in the cosmetics and food industries.
Kazengo is not only planting trees, she is growing hope for her children and grandchildren to have fertile land, food and employment in the future. That has to be a good investment for us all.
Members of Baribsi village women’s shea butter production group