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Untangling the Thicket: Workshop on Agroforestry Regulations in the Sahel

This regional workshop to assess land use policy in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal took place from 22 to 24 June 2005 in the Conference Hall of the Department of Water and Forests, Dakar, Senegal. More than 30 participants from national, regional, international organisations and the local press participated. It was sponsored by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada; l’Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agronomiques (ISRA, Senegal's national agricultural research institute), the Direction des Eaux, Forêts, Chasses et la Conservation des Sols of the Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection of Senegal; ICRAF (the World Agroforestry Center), and the DMP.

Why regulations matter

Trees are a traditional component of Sahelian farming systems—but they are under increasing threat. Growing human populations consume more fuelwood and more livestock result in more grazing pressure, eating or trampling young tree seedlings.

Efforts to incorporate trees in degraded areas often encounter regulatory complications such as:

  • African custom traditionally views the planting of trees as a declaration of ownership, so tree plantings by governments or other outsiders may be opposed by residents.

  • The declaration of forest areas as off-limits may deprive residents of their livelihoodsespecially the poor, who are dependent on wild harvests. They may disobey such regulations, creating conflict.

  • New plantations of trees require long-term maintenance, which is often not funded by regulatory legislation.

Agroforestry: a new regulatory challenge

Improved agroforestry systems can help sustain agro-ecosystems if there is a supportive regulatory framework, but they are a relatively recent development, so legislation has not yet caught up. The DMP partners have the technical knowledge to help governments develop the right agroforestry policies, but need to become familiar with processes for doing that.

Workshop activities

The workshop assessed current legislation on land use, land tenure, and forest management practices. Following a series of interesting presentations by experts on environmental law from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED Sahel) and from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), two working groups were organised to discuss different topics in detail.

Working group on the assessment of forest codes and other regulations concerning agroforestry

This team concluded that there is currently a window of opportunity in the Sahel due to the trend towards decentralized forms of natural resource management, inviting local communities and administrative units to play a more active role in the management of their own environments. The main constraints are forestry regulations that do not encourage investments in forestry, especially in the parklands; an ever-increasing number of laws regulating the management of natural forests; conflicting interests in the management of natural resources between foresters and agronomists; and institutional instability.

The working group recommended:

  • Identifying vague statements in forestry codes and application regulations, and taking opportunities to create new texts without revising codes;

  • Inserting language enabling security of investments for farmers in the new texts;

  • Adapting legislation and regulations to create favorable conditions for intensification and competition amongst agroforestry product networks;

  • Conceptualizing and developing local institutional models with endorsement from the forestry department; and

  • Research, development and education services that co-supervise theses on laws and texts regulating natural resources and forest resources in particular, in order to undertake critical analysis and formulate operational recommendations.

Working group on customary laws in the management of agroforestry systems

This group noted that many customary practices and regulations favor agroforestry, demonstrating that farmers do value trees. Examples include prohibitions on the cutting down of Faidherbia albida trees in parklands; regulation of periods of fruit collection; routes or corridors for livestock access to grazing areas to preserve natural regeneration; preservation of parklands containing shea butter trees; spreading of seed and manure on-farm in exchange for cattle grazing contracts; customary land chiefs regulating land distribution; cattle herds controlled in groups to avoid zones under regeneration; and assisted natural regeneration and conservation of indigenous tree species on agricultural lands.

The group considers that some of these practices may provide leverage for the promotion of agroforestry. Some examples are prohibitions and taboos, and antagonistic co-existence of customary and modern laws on natural resource management.

The group recommended:

  • Acknowledgement by respective Governments of customary practices and regulations favourable to agroforestry;

  • Assessment and capitalisation of customary local knowledge;

  • Enhance customary laws in the preparation of local conventions;

  • Support of inter-village visits promoting successful experiences linked with customs and/or local conventions;

  • Secure land tenure and gender (women, youth etc.) equity for the motivation of investors in agroforestry; and

  • Enhance fallows during dry season periods “jachère dérobée”.

To follow up to these recommendations, the participants set out a short-term implementation plan. The plan requests that ICRAF support Sahelian governments in establishing tests through the on-going projects in various countries. IIED has efficient training materials (posters, publications, films etc.) promoting successful local regulations, and is willing to work in partnership with Sahelian countries. The following activities were identified for the short-term:

  • ICRAF (through ANAFE) should initiate collaborative programs between research-development-education, identifying windows of opportunity for agroforestry options in the laws and regulations for the management of natural resources;

  • Select appropriate sites through the IDRC Biodiversity Project (Burkina Faso and Mali) and DMP Project (Senegal and Niger) for testing institutional options, regulations, customs and laws; country forestry services and IFPRI to get involved. Senegal is invited to collaborate with IIED;

  • Inform country decision makers about the resolutions of this workshop.

At the completion of the workshop proceedings, local authorities and country forestry departments to prepare a summary for the information and implication of high authorities (ministers). Two to three-day annual visits should be organized for decision makers and to ensure that the event is well covered by the local press.


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