Assisted natural regeneration

The hilly landscape of Northern Maroua, Cameroon was once rich with tall trees and green fields. With sufficient rain, local farmers enjoyed consistent crop yields and herders grazed their healthy livestock. But in the last two decades, demand has increased for farmland, pasture, and firewood for cooking at the expense of forests and grasslands.

To meet demand for charcoal in the towns of Nosybe, Ambanja, and Ambilobe in Madagascar's Diana Region, local people chop down thousands of mangrove trees each year. The expansion of agriculture also leads to the degradation of this key carbon-storing ecosystem: Many mangroves are converted into rice paddies, and loose cattle munch at the tender stalks. The lack of local regulations to halt this destruction means that these biodiverse ecosystems suffer significant losses year after year, especially during the flood-inducing rainy season.

The Desa’a Forest is one of the oldest remaining dry afromontane forests in Ethiopia and the largest in the Tigray and Afar Regions. Directly threatened by desertification, 74% of it has already disappeared and the remaining 26% is already severely degraded. It is so important that the Ethiopian government has deemed it a priority area for conservation.

With 85% of Ethiopia’s growing population engaged in traditional agriculture, the level of deforestation for the expansion of cropland, firewood or charcoal is growing, causing extensive soil erosion. As a result, soil fertility has declined to such an extent that local people now struggle to grow crops and raise livestock.  

Nearly all – 96 percent – of Malawi’s rapidly growing population depends on wood or charcoal for cooking. Meanwhile, land is continuously being cleared to grow crops, since nearly 80 percent of Malawians rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Southern Kenya, along the border with Tanzania and north of Mount Kilimanjaro, is predominantly inhabited by Maasai communities, which rear their livestock across seemingly endless rangelands.

Southern Kenya, along the border with Tanzania and north of Mount Kilimanjaro, is predominantly inhabited by Maasai communities, which rear their livestock across seemingly endless rangelands. However, these landscapes and their ecosystems are steadily degrading. In these areas, Justdiggit partnered with several local organisations to empower women, who often have trouble starting their own businesses, to restore their landscapes in a way that can financially benefit them.  

After decades of unsustainable agricultural practices and deforestation, the consequences of land degradation became more and more visible in Tanzania’s semi-arid Dodoma Region. Increasing temperatures during the dry seasons and erratic rainfall patterns during the rainy season cause problems for millions of people, mostly farmers and herders. In this complex system, the large-scale regeneration of trees can restore these lost ecosystem services and regulate the climate.  

Restoring and sustainably managing degraded land and forests is a national priority for Niger. It has been since the 1980s, when farmers restored over 1 million hectares of land without any external aid. Still, each year, the country loses about 100,000 hectares of arable land from overgrazing, uncontrolled logging, unsustainable forest management and fires. More than 75 percent of Niger’s area is affected by deforestation and desertification, which threaten the livelihoods of millions of people.

Between 1990 and 2010, Kenya’s forest cover decreased from 12 percent to only 6 percent. The country has now committed to bring it back to 10 percent by 2030. In Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands (ASALs), deforestation is largely driven by increasing local demand for wood for construction and cooking, overgrazing, and grass fires. Deforestation and land degradation are especially serious in areas where droughts, exacerbated by climate change, are threatening already limited water supplies.