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Small is beautiful: Restoring degraded lands, one parcel at a time

Bioversity International partner, Mr Harouna Kaboré, farmer from Burkina Faso, talks about his experience restoring three hectares of his household’s degraded lands in the third blog in the CBD COP13 Forest and Landscape Restoration Blog Series.

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets agreed in Nagoya in 2012 included restoring 15% of the world’s degraded ecosystems by 2020 (Target 15). Subsequent assessments have led to estimates that for terrestrial ecosystems, this 15% means restoring a staggering 350 million hectares – and requires billions of tons of tree seed and trillions of seedlings. 

In the third blog in the CBD COP13 Forest and Landscape Restoration Blog Series, Bioversity International partner, Mr Harouna Kaboré, a Mossi farmer from the village Manefyam in the province of Kourwéogo, Burkina Faso, talks about his experience restoring three hectares of his household’s degraded lands in the context of a newly launched research initiative on nutrition-sensitive forest restoration.

By Marlène Elias and Barbara Vinceti

Mr Kaboré is a 38-year-old farmer and father of seven. In his fields in Manefyam, he displays his skills and experience restoring three hectares of degraded lands through fencing to protect the natural regeneration of trees, selectively tilling, and sowing or selectively planting trees. A self-motivated man, he has planted 2800 trees of value for medicine, nutrition and income over a 10 year period on land that was previously degraded. Due to natural mortality, many of the trees have not survived, but his efforts are relentless. With the support of the burkinabé association tiipaalga, he has also learned about the uses of many species previously unknown to him that now grow in his protected fields; and many species that were previously only encountered in distant areas have also populated these lands. Some came on their own and he no longer has to purchase their goods on the market.

According to Mr Kaboré, in this fenced area, plants grow taller and faster because they are protected from animals. He finds that the high mix of species is beneficial for his trees, and also for the crops growing around the protected area, as the bees living in the cavities of large trees pollinate his crops.
An innovator, Mr Kaboré has devised a low technology drip irrigation system to water his seedlings. Every week, this system slowly but steadily delivers his prized seedlings with 20 liters of water, one drop at a time.  Mr Kaboré's low technology drip irrigation system. Credit: Bioversity International/M. Elias

In 2011, Mr Kaboré made a 14-year plan for the management of this protected area with tiipaalga. He indicated his desire to manage the area primarily for haymaking. He now sells 800 bundles of hay from his protected area, each for approximately 1 Euro. He compares his life today, with his rejuvenated, biodiverse land, with before when his land was degraded and allowing only for low agricultural yields. There is a clear improvement in his quality of life. With his improved income, many of his children and his younger brothers are now in high school.

But hay is only one of many goods emerging from these protected fields. Mr Kaboré and his wife are reaping the benefits of the trees they have protected and cared for not only on these lands, but also in surrounding fields as they apply the silvicultural techniques learned in their protected area to agroforestry plots. Ms Kaboré acquires her firewood from this protected area, and can use the time she saves on firewood collection to pursue other livelihood activities. The Kaborés also collect fruit—some of which are for sale—and medicinals, which they share with fellow villagers and traditional healers. Some species are used to treat hypertension, others diarrhea or malaria. Mr Kaboré provides his neighbours with advice on how to care for their trees.

On the weekends, the Kaboré children help their parents, and Mr Kaboré hopes that at least one of them will follow in his footsteps and continue tending to trees and biodiversity. His advice to others: “You have to be very motivated and not give up. Then, great things are possible.”


The initiative 'Nutrition-sensitive forest restoration to enhance the capacity of rural communities in Burkina Faso to adapt to change' is implemented in collaboration with the burkinabé association tiipaalga, the Institute of Research in Applied Sciences and Technologies (IRSAT) and the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU). It is funded by the Austrian Development Cooperation, with co-financing from the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and CGIAR Fund Donors.

This blog is part of a series that Bioversity International is rolling out around COP13 - Mainstreaming Biodiversity for Well-Being. The blogs explain why mainstreaming agricultural and tree biodiversity is critical in sustainable food and production systems if we are to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity's Strategic Action Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 that "By 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and widely used, maintaining ecosystem services, sustaining a healthy planet and delivering benefits essential for all people".

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Photo (top): Mr Kaboré on his farm in Burkina Faso. Credit: Bioversity International/M. Elias; Photo (bottom): Mr Kaboré's low technology drip irrigation system. Credit: Bioversity International/M. Elias