FMNR is being practiced across parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) is a process where farmers are trained to find viable tree stumps and shrubs (usually from trees that have been cut down or burnt) and to prune and nurture these plants, allowing the tree to regrow. When done correctly, this process can help restore soil structure and fertility and inhibit soil erosion and evaporation of moisture. Benefits from this include better crops, extra fodder for animals and more firewood, which all contribute enormously to household well-being and income.
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Veronica and Lawrence are FMNR champions; they were trained in 2013 alongside 10 other individuals in Abim district in Uganda. They were taken to Ofaka district where FMNR had earlier been piloted and were inspired by the results of FMNR in that area. Both have been active in establishing an FMNR demonstration garden for their village. They explain that the area where the demonstration garden now sits used to be bare ground with little grass and no trees at all. When the winds came, soil would be blown off, when it rained; the soils would again be swept away.
“After our training as FMNR champions, we came and established this demonstration site, we would prune the trees and allow them to grow. We trained people about FMNR and one change stands out in this community, the habit of bush burning has reduced, our animals have grass to eat unlike before the time FMNR started here”.
Their demonstration garden was established in 2013 and is now three years old. In that time, they have learnt to plough the area in the correct way, gained skills in water and soil conservation, and have developed knowledge about soil nutrients.
Lawrence said, “I learnt that FMNR is possible and it can work, I changed my attitude about it and believed that it works. When I returned (from the training) I trained seven people in my village and now I am an example.”
“We have come to learn about some trees which we didn’t know that are medicinal for both humans and animals. For example the “oryang” tree (Fardiherbia Albida) is used to deworm goats, it is also important for increasing soil fertility. We now protect it because it’s an important tree”.
Veronica and Lawrence have two gardens where they practice FMNR and have opened up more land for cultivation. Veronica currently has a four acre garden while Lawrence has a two acre garden of sorghum. They both practice inter-cropping – a process where other plants are grown amongst crops, helping to produce a better crop yield while also providing biodiversity and improving soil fertility.
Veronica has left over 15 trees in each acre to grow with her crops. She says “my garden is four acres big, I grow sunflower, ground nuts and sorghum. Initially, I cultivated two acres of sunflower garden, I used to harvest one sack from one acre, after I started practising FMNR, I have realised an increase in my crop produce. I now produce four to five bags from one acre”
These two champions are not the only ones excited about this change; a ripple effect has gone through the village. After witnessing the benefits of FMNR, three of their neighbours have opened up gardens of about two-three acres each directly opposite Veronica and Lawrence’s gardens. They have adopted FMNR and are waiting to reap the benefits.
“We are three champions in this village, and most farmers have now replicated what we are doing.”
Veronica says “With or without World Vision, we will continue practising FMNR because our village elders and the sub-county administration have been involved. Here in Karamoja once elders endorse something, it works and FMNR has been endorsed by our elders. In this village there are different groups or associations, whenever there is a meeting, we use the chance to advocate for FMNR”
Another important change is that communities are encouraging children to embrace FMNR. Through environment clubs at school, children are taught about protecting the environment and parents teach children in a more practical way, while in the gardens. This change has greatly reduced incidence of burning trees and improve the attitudes of children towards cutting down trees, making the change more likely to be continued into future generations.
FMNR Network in Uganda is a coalition of organisations who aim at using the FMNR model as a means of improving food, nutrition and income security of small holder farmers. The network is hosted by WV Uganda and assisted by World Vision Australia.
The Network holds meetings with member organisations during which they report on what they have been doing as an organisation to implement FMNR. The network also visits individual member organisations field areas and documents success stories from practising farmers.