The importance of trees and forest cover in dryland areas


Photo credit: Down to Earth

Life in drylands is precarious and to make things worse water availability in these areas is expected to decline due to changes in climate and land use Credit: Paul Shaffner/Flickr

Increasing tree cover in drylands can ensure food security, solve water crisis

by Deepanwita Niyogi

The world’s drylands must be restored as they provide habitat for biodiversity, protect against erosion, help combat desertification and contribute to soil fertility

A Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) preliminary study speaks about the importance of trees and forest cover in dryland areas as these ensure food security for millions of people threatened by climate change.

Drylands cover about 41 per cent of the Earth’s surface and face the problem of water scarcity. People living in drylands, especially in the developing countries, depend on forests, wooded lands, grasslands and trees to meet their basic requirements.

The world’s drylands must be restored as they provide habitat for biodiversity, protect against erosion, help combat desertification and contribute to soil fertility.

According to Nora Berrahmouni, drylands forestry officer at FAO, “Trees contribute to food security. So, increasing their density in forests is very important. It is important to increase their density in drier areas, keeping in mind the local conditions. However, this does not mean that we should convert natural grasslands into forests. Grasslands are equally important as forests.”

Water shortage in drylands

Life in drylands is precarious and to make things worse water availability in these areas is expected to decline due to changes in climate and land use, the report says.

“People in drylands face many challenges. They live in extreme environmental conditions: scarcity of water, periods of drought, heat waves, land degradation and desertification. Poverty, lack of socio-economic opportunities, food insecurity, conflicts, weak governance and inadequate policies are other problems they face,” Berrahmouni added.

Increasing forest cover in drylands will improve water infiltration in soils and reduce erosion. To solve water scarcity, there is a need to manage existing water resources and develop water harvesting techniques, support restoration of forest cover to reduce siltation and water erosion and recharge aquifers.

Diminished status

Dryland forests and other associated ecosystems have not attracted the same level of interest and investment. Tree cover and land use in drylands are not well known. However, drylands cover 6.1 billion hectares, an area more than twice the size of Africa.

Read the full article: Down to Earth

A simple and cost-effective machine that makes it easier to plant sesame seeds.


This photo gallery shows how a simple grassroots innovation is aiding Tanzanian sesame farmers improve production.

Simple innovation changing farmers’ fortunes

by Baraka Rateng’

Smallholder farmers in Tanzania are increasingly taking to sesame farming because of its drought resistant qualities. It is more resilient climate change related impacts.

Constantine Martin, a primary school leaver, who hails from Babati District in northern Tanzania has invented a simple and cost-effective machine that makes it easier to plant sesame seeds.

Martin, 42, began developing his invention after receiving training in modern sesame farming by a London-based international development charity, Farm Africa, which helps farmers grow more, sell more and sell for more.

The hand-pushed planting machine dubbed ‘Coasta Planter’ makes the planting sesame seeds easier and upscale production.

Sesame farming in Tanzania has traditionally been by hand, a tough, tedious and time consuming work where farmers dig individual holes a few centimetres deep for each seed, then go back and forth along their plots dropping seeds.  It also causes back pain.

He saw this gap and developed the technology now being adopted by many farmers.

Martin says: “Sesame is a drought-resistant crop and many farmers were encouraged to get into this kind of farming but the challenge was on how to plant the sesame seeds, which are very small.”

“I used to farm sesame using outdated farming practices, which didn’t transform my income and livelihood. Planting was [a] tedious job as my wife and I had to go back and forth in our five acre plot, which meant we had to walk more than 20km,” adds Martin who is a member of one of Farm Africa’s co-operatives that brings members together to negotiate better prices for their crops, and gain access to improved seed varieties, inputs and training.

Read the full story: SciDevNet

At least $109 million needed for seeds and other agricultural inputs


Photo credit: FAO

Widespread crop failure has exarcerbated chronic malnutrition in the region.


Race against time in drought-ravaged Southern Africa to ensure 23 million people receive farming support

At least $109 million is urgently required for the provision of seeds and other agricultural inputs and services

With only a few weeks before land preparation begins for the next main cropping season, some 23 million people in Southern Africa urgently need support to produce enough food to feed themselves and thus avoid being dependent on humanitarian assistance until mid 2018, FAO said today.

A FAO-prepared response plan aims to ensure that seeds, fertilizers, tools, and other inputs and services, including livestock support, are provided to small-holder farmers, agro-pastoralists and pastoralists to cope with the devastating impact of an El Niño-induced drought in the region.

At least $109 million in funding is required to provide this urgently needed support.

Farmers must be able to plant by October and failure to do so will result in another reduced harvest in March 2017, severely affecting food and nutrition security and livelihoods in the region, FAO warned.

Worst drought in 35 years

Two consecutive seasons of droughts, including the worst in 35 years that occurred this year, have particularly hit vulnerable families in rural areas, as prices of maize and other staple foods have risen.

The result is that almost 40 million people in the region are expected to face food insecurity by the peak of the coming lean season in early 2017. All countries in Southern Africa are affected.

“The high levels of unemployment and sluggish economies, means that the main way people are able to access food is through what they themselves produce. Assisting them to do this will provide lifesaving support in a region where at least 70 percent of people rely on agriculture for their livelihoods,” said David Phiri, FAO’s Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa.

“We must make the most of this small window of opportunity and make sure that farmers are ready to plant by October when the rains start,” he added.

The FAO response plan covers 10 countries – Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – which requested specific assistance.

Responding to El Niño, preparing for La Niña

Read the full article: FAO


SUGGESTION (Willem Van Cotthem)

Introduce container gardening




Empowering smallholders



FTA at Asia-Pacific Rainforest Summit: Empowering smallholders

Originally published at CIFOR’s Forests News

Mediating the push and pull of agricultural expansion and conservation is no easy task. Add to that smallholders – who play a crucial role in producing agricultural commodities but whose economic disenfranchisement can incline to unsustainable practices – and the situation becomes even more complex.

With increasing corporate commitments to eliminate deforestation from supply chains, the integral, and precarious, situation of smallholders must be addressed. But how can companies help to empower them, disincentivizing deforestation and unsustainable practices? What must government, civil society and the financial sector do? And, what would a successful smallholder empowerment project look like?

Read the full story: Forests, Trees, Agroforestry


Opportunity to tailor the photosynthetic performance of crops for specific environments.



Towards smarter crop plants to feed the world

Source: Lancaster University


Plant scientists have made an important advance in understanding the natural diversity of a key plant enzyme which could help us address the looming threat of global food security.

Read the full story: Science Daily



Sustainable dryland cropping in relation to soil productivity

Posted by Prof. Dr. Willem VAN COTTHEM

Ghent University – Belgium


Having participated in all the meetings of the INCD (1992-1994) and all the meetings of the UNCCD-COP, the CST and the CRIC in 1994-2006, I had an opportunity to collect a lot of interesting books and publications on drought and desertification published in that period.

Sustainable dryland cropping in relation to soil productivity

Book Nr. 11

Please click:

or see Sustainable dryland cropping in relation to soil productivity

Comparing pastures and results in land productivity and soil health


Photo credit: Science Daily

This image shows cattle grazing multi-species pasture mixtures.
Credit: Photo credit Steve LaMar.

More for less in pastures

Source: American Society of Agronomy


Research comparing pastures with multiple types of plants to those with less variety shows surprising results in land productivity and soil health.

Read the full story: Science Daily