In Niger, since the droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, one of the most successful land restoration strategies has been the regeneration of native trees in farmers’ fields. This has led to a reduction in soil erosion and an improvement in soil fertility. But the focus has often been on the positive effects of trees on annual crop yields, missing the other direct benefits that trees provide. The most valuable of these benefits is the potential contribution of trees as food sources. Wild food trees are productive as well as resilient to drought and very nutritious. Readopting their consumption on a large scale could be game-changing to the Sahel:
it would catalyse their propagation, bring better food security and nutrition, counter desertification, sequester carbon and sustain biodiversity. The founders of Sahara Sahel Foods felt that in order to bring forth such a revolution, an inclusive food processing industry should be created to serve as a stable outlet for produce harvested by rural communities from their surviving and regenerating trees. This article presents the case of Sahara Sahel Foods, there beginnings, challenges, lessons learned and way forward.
This article was submitted for inclusion in the forthcoming edition of ETFRN News 60 - Restoring African drylands, due for release in December 2020, containing 25 articles plus interviews and boxes describing farmer-led, NGO, private sector, government and international initiatives. These highlight the roles of varied policies and stakeholder interests, and identify opportunities to encourage smallholder and community participation in scaling out successes and meeting national, regional and global commitments.