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Chris Reij Gray Tappan: "Scale, Causes and Impacts of Re-Greening in Niger "

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Published on May 11, 2012

A presentation by Chris Reij, VU University, Amsterdam and USGS Data Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science, South Dakota, Gray Tappan, USGS Data Center for Earth Resources Observation and Science, South Dakota, USA.Part of the University of Chicago Program on the Global Environment's inaugural conference on the Social Life of Forests, held May 30-31, 2008.A recent study of long-term trends in agriculture and environment in Niger found large-scale re-greening of agricultural farmland areas in Niger and in particular in regions with high density population. This is not surprising in itself, as increasing population densities encourage farmers to intensify agriculture, and trees are part of the production system. The scale of this farmer-managed re-greening is surprising. It is mainly happening on farmland and extends over about 5 million ha. Farmers have indicated that they have been protecting and managing spontaneously regenerating trees since the mid-1980s. They began this practice because they had to ?fight the Sahara.? They had to combat the impacts of dust and sandstorms, as opposed to the popular notion of an advancing front of sand dunes. The ecological and economic crisis of the 1970s and 1980s acted as a trigger, along with growing population pressure and changes in the role of the State with regard to devolving more authority to local communities. Farmland re-greening has resulted in a wide range of impacts. It has led to more complex and more productive farming systems, improved household food security, changes in local climate, increased drought resilience, local increases in biodiversity, improved soil fertility, and a reduction in time women need for the collection of firewood. While these positive impacts do not occur everywhere, there are many positive indicators of environmental change at a vast scale. Adequate quantification of the different impacts remains an important challenge.

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