In the northeast of Burkina Faso, the reforestation project is underway to return native forests to the area and reverse the desertification. The project's unique restoration technique involves digging embankments in the shape of half moons into the hard soil which allows the soil to store water just long enough for seeds to germinate. Local communities engage in collecting and caring for seeds and trees, and have economic incentive to transform the bare landscape into fertile, biologically diverse and productive forest. As part of the Great Green Wall Initiative, this project is one of many that aims to battle the desertification of the Sahel-Saharan region by planting a continuous wall of trees across the entire width of the African continent.
Create tree cover and promote biodiversity
Promote sustainable exploitation of forest
Promote economic development
Build livelihood resilience
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Why is intervention needed?
The Sahel is home to some of the world’s most vulnerable yet most resistant communities. Here, widespread drought, land degradation and desertification have swept through the region, changing the landscape drastically and bringing with it severe famine, poverty, food insecurity and sinking water levels. Despite it's dry, barren appearance, the area receives enough rain for trees to grow. However, the soils are so dry that water cannot penetrate and so is baked off by the sun before it can be absorbed. This means hardly anything can grow and desertification ensues.
This project employs a technique of land preparation known as the Vallerani technique that enables the rainwater and organic matter to gather in depressions. To prepare the land for sowing, the Vallerani technique involves digging half-moon earth depressions and embankments into the soil using a specialized Delphino plough attached to a tractor. This allows the soil to store water during the driest months, after which drought resistant species like Acacia can survive most of the year without rain. Local women collect the seeds of grasses, herbs and trees from surrounding areas to sow in the soils prepared by the delphino plough. Species are selected to provide a variety of benefits, including those that improve soil quality. Trees help to support the soil structure through their root systems and enhance nutrient levels in the soil. Planting trees in an area where nothing except flat baked degrading soil existed has the potential to alter the area's microclimate by providing shade, evapotranspiration and cloud cover.
Local community members engage in everything from collecting seeds to protecting the trees from browsing livestock, potential fires and harmful human practices. It is usually local women who receive training in seed collection and gather seeds from a variety of species throughout the year to sell to the project. When it comes to planting and caring for the growing forest, both men and women take part. With a vested interest in the growth of a valuable and productive forest, local people are keen to get involved. Seed species are selected that have socio-economic value for local communities. Grasses and herbs provide grazing pasture for livestock, medicinal and culinary ingredients and the raw materials needed to make handicraft items such as baskets, rugs and soap. As local communities harvest the growing forest sustainably, they learn skills, diversify the avenues through which they make their money and increase their incomes. The project invests in the livlilhood development of future generations as well, given that the local women that are engaging in the restoration efforts, many of whom are mothers, spend their extra income on their childrens' education.
* Carbon calculation methodology
In the Sahel in Burkina Faso, in restored areas, a total of 30 tonnes of CO2 per hectare is stored in above-and-below ground biomass over a period of 20 years. This figure is based on early estimates and on-site measurements in 2014, 2015 and Plan Vivo PIN Document "OZG".