Summary of The Great African Regreening

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Local action can support coordinated initiatives to combat big environmental problems like global warming and rainforest destruction. Farmers are leading the way in making Niger green again by managing the gao tree, and in turn, the tree fertilizes their crops and supports their way of life. The Guardian’s West Africa correspondent Ruth Maclean dives into an eye-opening exploration on the symbiotic relationship between Niger’s people and the tree. This compelling read is perfect for those engaged in environmental or development work, especially with NGOs, or anyone interested in natural solutions to complex problems.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the gao tree is helping Niger become green again,
  • Why small-scale farmers are leading the way in managing and protecting the gao, and
  • How the beloved trees have fostered a way of life since at the least the mid-19th century.
 

About the Author

Ruth Maclean is The Guardian’s West Africa correspondent. She was previously a South Africa and Mexico correspondent for The New York Times.

 

Summary

Since the late 1980s, the West African country of Niger has become home to more than 200 million new trees. Many of them are gao trees, which play a key role in restoring the land’s fertility. Thousands of small-scale farmers tend to the Faidherbia albida trees that grow naturally in the country. In doing so, they’ve sparked an environmental revolution in one of the world’s poorest countries. Many of the region’s forests were cut down to accommodate subsistence farming, but the gao is uniquely helpful to farmers. Its roots fix nitrogen in the soil, which in turn fertilizes crops. And because its branches lose their leaves during the rainy season – the prime growing season – crops beneath a gao canopy receive protection and sunlight at the optimum times. The gao helps grow crop yields to twice the size they were before. Plus the trees encourage soil to better retain water, mitigating crop failures during droughts.


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