The process of allowing trees to regenerate and nourish cropland without agrochemicals sounds simple, yet is as powerfully disruptive of an idea as the iPhone.
Farmer-managed natural regeneration is an agroforestry and agroecology technique in which native trees are carefully selected and left to grow on land often razed bare.
Leaves decompose and become fertilizer; roots fix nitrogen and build up soil structure and microbiology. Carbon is sequestered, soil retains moisture, and firewood — often scarce — is within easy reach through repeated pruning.
With the Sahel desert encroaching from the north and temperatures projected to rise, farmer-managed natural regeneration is one of the only innovations that can shield crops from extreme heat by providing partial shade. It is a very real form of resilience.
It’s hard to imagine a simpler, more appropriate technology to combat climate change, improve yields for millions of struggling farmers and make headway on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Farmer-managed natural regeneration is affordable — it requires no external inputs — and preserves local biodiversity that yields traditional foods and medicines.
But alliances are critical. Agroecology techniques, such as farmer-managed natural regeneration, bring together traditional forest conservationists, climate change funders, and indigenous peoples.
Photo of goats eating argan tree leaves in Morocco via Adobe Stock.