Sakina’s story: Transformational trees in Niger

Government-funded global agriculture programs are making a world of difference for many small farmers in rural Africa. Don’t believe it? Read the living proof:

Despite drought and famine, Sakina Mati would walk 6 miles a day in search of firewood for her family in southern Niger. Today, thanks to the Evergreen Agriculture movement, she no longer has to make this dangerous journey and has turned her sun-scorched land into a profitable mix of agriculture and forest.

It all began when Sakina met an NGO-sponsored trainer who came to her small village in the Maradi region in southern Niger and taught her the value of planting and managing native trees on her farm. Taking a risk, she took his advice and planted trees – she now has over 100 – and quickly learned how beneficial reforestation can be – the trees help prevent erosion on her farmland, pruned branches and leaves can be used to fertilize the soil and her goats feed off the bark. Now, instead of walking 6 miles a day for firewood, Sakina cuts down a few select trees as part of a management programme and sells them as firewood for a profit.

Thanks to her success, Sakina has become an ambassador for the Evergreen Agriculture movement. As the head of a cooperative, she teaches agroforestry and conservation in six villages in the district of Maradi.

“Becoming a community leader was one of the best things that I have done in my life,” she says. “Traveling from village to village, teaching and encouraging other farmers, I am an expert in agroforestry and I help others achieve what I have done on my farm.”

Being a community leader has also taken Sakina as far as Washington, DC to advocate for Evergreen Agriculture.

The agroforestry and local conservation farming solutions that Sakina teaches serve to halt both desertification and hunger. In addition to managing trees, the Evergreen Agriculture technique uses very simple and low-tech farming innovations such as planting pits, organic fertilizer and strategically-placed stones to regenerate degraded soils.

Developed by local farmers and scientists working together, these solutions have been spreading across Niger, Burkina Faso, Zambia and Malawi, transforming the lives and land of 5 million people. In Niger alone, it is estimated that this green movement has improved the quality of over 5 million hectares – an area of land roughly the size of Denmark or of West Virginia.

Smart aid from donor development agencies, national governments, local community-based organizations, NGOs, African institutions, international organizations and universities have made all this possible. It truly is a movement worth being part of.

Watch the International Food Policy Research Institute’s video of Sakina telling her story to economists and policy experts, or read the All Africa story about her experience in the movement or the Millions Fed discussion paper about the movement in the Sahel. Also available is the World Agroforestry Center’s webpage on Evergreen Agriculture. Contacts include Melinda Smale, Chris Reij and others.

For more stories like these, go here. Take action with ONE and tell the G8 to roll out a bold new plan to help end hunger and malnutrition by signing our petition.