31 October 2009

Niger: Tree Planting Heroine Helps Reclaim the Desert

Photo: allAfrica.com
Sakina Mati
interview

Washington, DC — Sakina Mati is a farmer and community leader in the village of Guidan Batoye, in the Maradi Region of Niger. She began to manage the regeneration of useful trees on her fields 15 years ago together with other women farmers in the village. While she started with no trees on her farm, she now has up to 150 trees. She is very committed to this effort and is now leading the village committee that supervises the village-wide effort of tree and vegetation regeneration. She is among the most respected people of the village because of her commitment to the protection of the environment.  [This introduction reprinted from Oxfam America's: "The Other Green Revolution: How Farmers Reclaimed the Desert to Create an Agricultural Future for Africa".] AllAfrica talked to Sakina Mati, who spoke in Hausa through a translator.

When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I do is go to fetch water from the well. I then prepare food for my five kids and to sell in the village. Then I go to the farm. Upon returning, I prepare food for my children. All day long I am pounding the millet and sorghum with my hands, and then also preparing for the next day.

Before it was very hard for women in the village, because there were no trees and it was a burden to survive… When we didn’t have trees in our area, I had to wake up very early to go and look for [fuel to cook with] because we didn’t have wood.  And because there were no trees, there was a lot of wind blowing, which stops us from doing any other thing.

The tree-planting effort in the Sahel is an all-women activity. When we started, we left our lands un-cleared so that the tree stumps may grow. Then we clear the land. With each tree stump, we leave about 7 shoots on it to develop. Then with time, after two or three years, we thin the trees to reduce the density of the foliage. As time went on, the trees began to reduce the wind erosion. We then got firewood, fodder for our animals - and then the herbs started coming out.

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