Community Based Reforestation | Yermande

Community Based Reforestation

Each child planted and cares for a treeEach child planted and cares for a tree

“The virtue of planting a single tree can not be measured. The future gratitude of every person who rests in that tree’s shade, every child who eats of its fruit, every bird that nests in its branches, is reflected upon those who placed it in the soil and helped water it into life.”  Maam Massamba Ndiaye, an elder from Ndiguel village.         

Deforestation is one of the greatest causes of increasing poverty and environmental destruction in Africa.  The population of Senegal has quadrupled in the last 50 years, resulting in the loss of forest to agriculture, wood cutting for fuel, and urban development.  Over 7.2 percent of Senegal’s total forests have been lost since 1990. As the trees disappear, the land is subject to desertification, natural resources become scarce, and crop yields decrease annually.  Seventy percent of the working population of Senegal is involved in agriculture.  Deforestation and the resulting desertification is an increasing threat to their economic and nutritional survival.  In 2012 more than 800,000 people in Senegal are at risk of malnutrition from the effects of drought and desertification.

Yermande’s community-based reforestation projects in Senegal can bring life back to struggling communities and literally turn the desert green. These projects are based on a method with proven success in Africa, in which small groups create tree nurseries, which distribute seedlings to their community free of cost, and are paid a small sum for each tree that survives until the next year.  

Our reforestation projects include three phases.  In the first phase, we plant fruit and nut trees, like lemon, mango, and cashews throughout the community.  The promise of fresh local fruit and nuts creates enthusiasm for reforestation work.  During the next phase, we plant fast-growing trees to create a wind break and to provide a future source of fire wood and building material.  The third phase begins with gathering seeds from the disappearing native trees so we can replant and preserve the natural forest environment surrounding the village.

Yermande also introduces Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) to the communities where we work.  FMNR is a permaculture technique in which farmers prune and care for select shoots that develop annually from the still living root systems of felled trees within their farms. These shoots quickly develop into new trees, which protect the crops and fertilize the fields.  Originally developed in Niger, FMNR has helped farmers turn barren land into fertile fields throughout the Sahel region, showing that it is possible to turn back the desert.   

In 2007 Yermande initiated its first community-based reforestation project in the village of Ndiguel Ndaiye, Senegal.  Yermande helped create a women’s organization focused on economic cooperation and reforestation.  The women’s organization received a donation of 600 fruit tree seedlings from a French non-governmental organization.  Yermande purchased materials and tools for planting the trees. The women watered and cared for the seedlings for four months until the monsoon rains arrived and then planted the trees throughout the village free of cost. Many of the first trees planted in the village now bear fruit, providing an important source of food and money for the women.  The women’s organization has established a community tree nursery and annually prepares tree seedlings for planting.

 Yermande is preparing to start a tree nursery and community reforestation program in Thionk Essyl village in the Casamance, the most forested and lush region of Senegal. The poverty and insecurity caused by 30 years of separatist conflict has left the Casamance forest exposed to rampant exploitation. Armed groups and profiteers are cutting down forests of ancient trees and selling lumber on the black market.  The conflict has disrupted farming and commerce, forcing the villagers to cut trees to sell wood and charcoal to support their families.  The conflict is slowly ending and we are preparing a campaign of reforestation and education, empowering the people to rebuild and maintain their forest resources for the future generations.