Low cost soil conservation measures empower local farmers
Image from video ‘More people, more trees’, part funded by the International Institute for Environment and Development
More people, more trees by Camilla Toulmin
This is the name of a new video, part-funded by IIED, which shows two decades of progress in addressing soil erosion in Burkina Faso and Kenya that have significantly improved rural livelihoods and farm productivity.
Twenty years ago, we noticed that some new projects across dryland Africa were attracting a lot of interest for their positive impacts on restoring degraded soils and building more resilient cropping systems. I had recently set up the Drylands programme here at IIED, and was working in partnership with Oxfam’s then-newly established Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), led by drylands expert, Ced Hesse. We produced a video and booklet — Looking after our land — under the direction of Will Critchley from the Free University of Amsterdam. It showed the growing evidence that simple, low cost soil conservation measures can empower local farmers to restore their lands and improve the fertility of their soil.
Nearly twenty years on, Ced Hesse has been with IIED for more than 12 years and we were keen to find out whether the dryland projects had been a ‘flash in the pan’, or the foundations for a better way of managing soils and landscapes. We asked Will Critchley to go back to look at two of the six original sites from Looking after our land — one in Machakos District, Kenya and the other on the central plateau of Burkina Faso.
Sometimes you can be disappointed going back to places you knew long ago — but this time there was no need to worry. In both cases, both soils and plant cover have been clearly restored, with greater investment in trees of all sorts. By following a participatory approach, in which people learn together about better ways to care for their soils, much has been achieved. Many farmers now harvest enough grain to meet all their needs, with extra to sell.