Restoration of Degraded Lands in Mali: a review on lessons learnt and opportunities for scaling
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The rapid growing population and the need of economic development is leading to a number of environmental issues, notably forest and degradation of land, resource depletion (water, mineral, forest), environmental degradation, public health, loss of biodiversity, loss of resilience in ecosystems and livelihood security for the poor. These problems are most intense in the tropics and sub-tropics, which together cover nearly 30% of the earth’s surface and comprise half the surface area of the world’s developing countries. In Africa, it is estimated that the annual rate of degradation is almost 50 per cent of the deforestation rate. The Sudano-Sahelian region has been increasingly plagued by land degradation, and this process has led to a southward extension of the Sahara Desert in the last several decades. In addition, the region is still suffering from the repercussions of the drought-induced famines of 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2012, and this further intensifies pressures on land, as population and economic growth needs have to be satisfied within the limited natural resources in the region. Pervasive unsustainable energy production and landuse practices in the region threaten significantly not only current development opportunities for local people, but also future generations’ livelihoods. Major drivers for land degradation are both climate-related extreme events like droughts and heavy precipitation or human-induced factors. The human activity affecting the landscape should be viewed in the context of the panoply of disturbance events and the dynamism that characterizes the ecosystem. Common degrading activities include: • Large-scale and open savanna fires. • Collection of fuelwood and non-wood forest products • Production of charcoal • Overgrazing • Over cultivation and pollution. These processes have resulted in widespread ecological degradation. In Mali, satellite imagery on cropland use intensity reveals a significant number of areas in a high land-use intensity state, where active cropland constitutes over 90 percent of available land. Thus, livelihood of local people is vulnerable in many rural areas and is likely to sharpen due to anticipated climate change. Land degradation reduces both the agricultural productivity and soils’ holding capacity for water, which over time leads to decreasing agricultural production, while demand for it is increasing as population grows. Many efforts have been deployed in the Sudano-Sahelian region to build resilience of the agricultural landscape through combating land degradation and desertification. The Inter-State Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS), innovators farmers and many programs and projects have developed different strategies and approaches of restoration of degraded lands. Some success has been achieved but often initiatives have failed. Hence, the major challenge is: what approaches or strategies for "scaling” of those successful experiences and what lessons from failure can help device policy in a way that it overcomes degradation, restores some of the key ecological processes and functions of rural landscapes, at the same time, and improves the livelihoods of the rural people? In Mali the EC-IFAD funded initiative on “Restoration of degraded land” is contributing to the effort of scaling-up and restoring degraded areas and returning them to effective and sustainable tree, crop and livestock production system. A community of practice was formed and met from 11-12 April 2017. Close to 30 experts from 21 organizations (including NGO, Research Institution, National Technical Services, Farmer organizations, the International organization including International Fund for Agricultural Development-IFAD, Wetland International, Permanent Interstate Committee for Drought Control in the Sahel) gathered in Bamako, Mali to reflect on the theme “Restoration of Degraded Lands in Mali: a review on lessons learnt and opportunities for scaling”. The general conclusion that can be drawn from this reflection workshop of land restoration programme in Mali is that the experiences are so diversified. The diversity of land restoration initiatives seems to be an indication of the dynamism of farmers, development agencies and researchers to improve the management, conservation and rehabilitation of degraded lands. Also there is no single factor which can be singled out as the key to successful and failed land restoration initiative. Success can generally be attributed to a combination of factors which have led farmers to adopt, and continue to use the rehabilitation practices. Furthermore, whether farmers do accept restoration practices appears to depend at least as much on socio-economic factors as on the physical effectiveness of the practices advocated. Farmers use different approaches or combination of different approaches for land restoration depending on contextual factors and across the different agro-ecological zone. The effectiveness and cost effectiveness of these options will be rigorously evaluated within the framework of the Restoration Project, either through small-scale participatory field trials and complementary action learning initiatives. This will build evidence for farmers and other actors on what works, for whom, how, and at what cost across heterogeneous contexts.