Reversing land degradation in Africa by scaling up Evergreen Agriculture

Members of Awash Bishola attending to their nursery. Photo May Muthuri
Community members digging zai pits. Photo: Hamed Tchibozo


Regreening Africa is an ambitious five-year project that seeks to reverse land degradation among 500,000 households, and across one million hectares in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa. By incorporating trees into croplands, communal lands and pastoral areas, regreening efforts make it possible to reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes.

The overall objective of the project is to improve livelihoods, food security and resilience to climate change by smallholder farmers in Africa, and to restore ecosystem services, particularly through evergreen agriculture.

Quick Facts

Geographic Region:

Country or Territory:
Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia

Desert/Arid Land


Area being restored:
1,000,000 hectares

Project Lead:
World Agroforestry (ICRAF)

Organization Type:

Project Partners:
• World Vision International • Catholic Relief Services • Oxfam • Sahel Eco • Care international • Evergreening Global Alliance • GIZ/ Economics of land Degradation

Project Stage:

Start Date:

End Date:

Primary Causes of Degradation

Agriculture & Livestock, Climate Change, Deforestation, Fragmentation, Invasive Species (native or non-native pests, pathogens or plants), Mining & Resource Extraction, Other

Degradation Description

An estimated 83% of sub-Saharan Africans are dependent on land for their livelihoods, yet two thirds of African land is already degraded to some degree. In many African countries land degradation is higher than 65%. This is attributed to high poverty level, cultivating of sloppy areas, overgrazing, deforestation, over-exploitation of wood resources outside protected areas, illegal mining and bush fires. This has resulted in soil erosion, low land productivity, loss of biodiversity and habitat, green house gas emissions and climate change impacts, reduced household income and food security, disrupted soil cycle and ecosystem services. This further exacerbates a vicious circle that worsens poverty, hunger, unemployment, instability, and the migration and conflict these afflictions breed.

Defining the Reference Ecosystem

The reference ecosystem is based on diverse sources of information (e.g. multiple extant reference sites, field indicators, historical records, predictive data).

Reference Ecosystem Description

Attributes: low tree cover; low rainfall; food insecurity; land productivity; low income/ poverty; land denudation (bare lands with gulleys, rills,); climate change impacts; low biodiversity.

Benchmarks: tree cover; tree diversity at household level; diversified income; gender involvement at household level; management of tree species; value chain development; food security; wealth status; number of households adopting.

Structure: nutrient flow within the system (soil fertility, nutrient recycling, nitrogen fixation, carbon storage (above-ground and below- ground; plants and animals; improved soil properties in terms of nutrients, fertility, living micro-organisms; increased rainfall; water retention capacity of the soil; organic matter; different living organisms e.g. animals, pollinators, decomposers, birds e.t.c; number of tree species regenerated.


a) Outstanding technical, implementing and sub-granting experience in scaling-up evergreen agriculture practices in the relevant country;

b) Strong grassroots presence in the relevant country;

c) Strong administrative, management and implementing capacity;

d) An exceptional track record of prior success in scaling-up evergreen agricultural practices in the country;

e) Strong commitment, responsiveness and proactive participation of the partner organizations in providing the information needed to make good decisions on the country lead organizations;

f) Where possible, keeping in mind a fair and equitable representation of the proponent partner organizations as leads across the eight countries. This consideration will be deployed for those countries where the above criteria are met to a comparable extent among more than one lead organization proponents in a country.

Project Goals

  • Document land degradation indicators in target areas using various forms of data to monitor the achievement of the scaling-up targets in each of the countries and aid in policy decision making
  • Identify, analyse and document existing large-scale re-greening successes at the grassroots in each of the countries and suitable participatory approaches for accelerated scaling-up
  • Influence country policy and regulatory frameworks to ensure they are conducive to the scaling-up of evergreen agriculture
  • Broadly communicate regreening successes to policymakers, relevant public administrations and development communities in each country to inspire accelerated scaling-up targeting 500,000 farmers
  • Develop and strengthen local tree-based value chains to support the scaling-up of evergreen agriculture production systems


Monitoring Details:
Periodic review and refinement of country specific Theories of Change (ToCs) and accompanying logical frameworks - It is increasingly recognized that having an appropriately specified ToC—one which is subjected to periodic review and refinement is an important foundation any project Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) system. Overall and country specific impact assessments - understand and credibly evidence outcomes and impacts, as well as the cost i.e. the project’s social and environmental returns on investment. Follow-up impact studies will be conducted to verify the project’s downstream impacts Baseline and endline surveys will capture data on key socio-economic and biophysical variables, including data associated with the outcome and impact indicators of the project’s overall and country specific logical frameworks. Farmer-level uptake surveys and ‘progress marker’ tracking - this will be done during the project’s implementation phase to assess progress, rather than leaving this until the end when it will be too late to undertake corrective measures. Rapid evergreen agriculture uptake surveys will be undertaken on an annual basis by country teams once implementation is underway. Output and farmer reach tracking and technical field monitoring - overall and country specific systems will need to be developed and put in place to track the delivery of project outputs and other key deliverables. While field monitoring will be undertaken on an ongoing basis by field teams, more structured and systematic technical monitoring is to be undertaken by teams of relevant representatives of the participating institutions at country level on a bi-annual basis. The findings from such country-level joint quality monitoring missions will be used to inform country level planning and adaptive management processes.

Start date, including baseline data collection:
April - September, 2018

End Date:
April - September, 2022


Primary Stakeholders: smallholder farmers and pastoralists

Involvement: trainings, community consultations, value chain identification and prioritisation, implementation, represent change agents, documenting restoration changes, nursery operators, enumerators.

Steps taken to engage them:

  • Involvement in data collection and validation: value chain scoping and prioritisation, baseline surveys
  • Joint quality monitoring missions – design and deploy project level reflection and learning events to bring together research and development practitioners to reflect on data and experiences for enhanced project planning
  • Periodical/ regular trainings on Evergreen Agriculture practices and technologies
  • Experience sharing in workshops
  • Work closely with implementing partners
  • Social media platforms: WhatsApp groups, Facebook
  • Documenting and communicating change to the wider community through videos

Education and outreach strategies used:

  • Radio
  • Road shows
  • Videos
  • Field days/ exchange visits
  • Exhibitions
  • Community videos
  • Trainings
  • Lead farmers
  • Social media

How this project eliminated existing threats to the ecosystem:
1. Deforestation and habitat loss: - Alternative income sources through tree-based value chains such as bee keeping. Work with the community to identify and develop priority tree-based value chains - On-farm tree planting e.g. fruit trees, fodder trees, dry-land timber species. Train and support tree nursery operators to raise quality tree germplasm and improved variety tree species such as Mango through grafting - Encourage regeneration of indigenous tree species on agricultural landscapes, rangelands and forest areas (e.g. Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) and Assisted Natural Regeneration (ANR)). - Conduct participatory selection of community change agents; establishment of model sites and Rural Resource Centres for learning purposes. - Alternative energy sources like improved cook stoves - Promote the use of zai pits and half moons for enrichment planting especially is dry areas - Promote the use of water conservation or micro-catchment structures e.g. farm ponds, zai pits - Mainstreaming restoration initiatives into government policies and strategies - Awareness creation on threats to the ecosystem and effective regreening practices - Local administration involvement for project sustainability 2. Invasive species - Encourage sustainable removal of invasive species and replacing them with high-value trees - Promoting tree-based value chains to control the spread of invasive species such as Prosopis juliflora e.g. processing the pods for sweets, flour and animal feeds; charcoal production 3. Climate change: - Controlling greenhouse gas emissions through tree planting - Grass reseeding to improve soil structure 4. Over-exploitation of natural resources - Sustainable harvesting e.g. through pollarding, coppicing, pruning, cutting - Mining

How this project reinstated appropriate physical conditions (e.g. hydrology, substrate)",:
1) Construction of soil conservation structures like gabions on gulleys, terraces, grass strips on slopes 2) Grass reseeding as soil cover measure 3) Enclosures by protecting a piece of land for a specific period of time for it to restore to its original state 4) Surveillance & analytic tools that provide data to support decision making & monitoring for scaling-up️

How this project achieved a desirable species composition:
1) Awareness and training on the importance of having more tree species on agricultural landscapes and rangelands 2) Increase diversity of trees in the nursery

How this project reinstated structural diversity (e.g. strata, faunal food webs, spatial habitat diversity):

How this project recovered ecosystem functionality (e.g. nutrient cycling, plant-animal interactions, normal stressors):
1) Encourage natural renegeration of indigenous tree species 2) Enrichment planting to improve diversity of trees on landscapes

How this project reestablished external exchanges with the surrounding landscape (e.g. migration, gene flow, hydrology):

Activities were undertaken to address any socio-economic aspects of the project:
1) Tree-based value chain development 2) Stakeholder engagement and mapping to identify policy gaps and opportunities that can be addressed by the project in relation to agroforestry and regreening. This is done through policy synthesis and analysis and stakeholder workshops; 3) Engage with national and sub-national stakeholders in each country to facilitate lesson sharing, identify opportunities for collaboration and collective develop a roadmap to regreening; 4) Support engagement with scaling stakeholders and policy processes to engage around identified opportunities and build partnerships, using evidence as a basis for constructive discussion; 5) Strategic communication for behavior change; 6) Farmer field days.

Ecological Outcomes Achieved

Eliminate existing threats to the ecosystem:
The project has so far achieved the following: 1) We have supplied tree species 2) Carried out soil sampling 3) Baseline surveys 4) Value chain identification and prioritization 5) Land degradation dynamics at baseline level 6) Detailed implementation plans Uptake surveys which will inform us better on the extent of recovery are currently underway.

Reinstate appropriate physical conditions",:
Uptake surveys are currently underway

Achieve a desirable species composition:
Uptake surveys are currently underway

Reinstate structural diversity:
Uptake surveys are currently underway

Recover ecosystem functionality:
Uptake surveys are currently underway

Reestablish external exchanges with the surrounding landscape:
Uptake surveys are currently underway

Factors limiting recovery of the ecosystem:
Uptake surveys are currently underway

Socio-Economic & Community Outcomes Achieved

Economic vitality and local livelihoods:
Economic vitality and local livelihoods 1) Priority and economically-viable tree-based value chains have been identified and prioritized for development 2) Some farmers have been linked to market actors e.g. farmers growing Shea trees and paw paw as a value chain

Provision of basic necessities such as food, water, timber, fiber, fuel, etc.:
1) Introduced them to high value tree species that have multiple benefits in terms of providing food, medicine, nutrition, fodder, fertiliser, e.t.c.

Cultural dimensions such as recreational, aesthetic and/or spiritual:

Regulation of climate, floods, disease, erosion, water quality, etc.:
1) Grass reseeding on denudated landscapes 2) Zai pits and half-moons for moisture conservation

Has the project had any negative consequences for surrounding communities or given rise to new socio-economic or political challenges?:
1) Farmers have seen the need to introduce trees on their landscapes but are limited by the small sizes of their farms and competing land uses 2) Introduction of policies by national governments that limit the land-use and tree ownership rights

Key Lessons Learned

Based on field visits, workshops and one on one interactions with farmers, the project has established that:

  1. Farmers have been practicing regreening practices such as Farmer-Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) for years hence its not a new concept;
  2. Combination of indigenous and scientific knowledge is key;
  3. Farmers are not interested in just planting trees but are keen to derive benefits from them i.e. linkage with economic benefit. Value chains are main drivers to adopting land restoration approaches;
  4. It is key to include farmers from the onset;
  5. Strategic communication is key to effect changes in behavior from farmer to government level;
  6. Motivation plan should be devised at the onset by creating suitable incentives for restoration activities;
  7. The use of community videos is an effective tool for documenting what the farmers are doing and change in real time;
  8. Farmers get fully immersed in what they are doing – farmers listen to their peers and are in a better position to learn from each other;
  9. FMNR is not enough in some areas thus we have to introduce enrichment planting (options by context);
  10. We have discovered that concepts developed by countries in the inception phase need to be re-designed and activities have to be re-aligned;
  11. The selection and planting of appropriate trees can complement naturally regenerating ones, for example to improve nutritional outcomes, enhance household incomes, or to provide a perennial fodder, fruit or timber source. Evidence suggests that the success of the establishment of such trees is improved in landscapes already populated by naturally regenerated vegetation;
  12. Farmer-centered extension approaches in general and farmer-to-farmer learning and knowledge sharing approaches in particular are often the most effective tools to build local capacity and to unleash the social spread of these practices;
  13. Farmers, herders and other land users need effective national policies and legislation regarding access to land, and they need clear land and/or tree tenure rules to enable them to engage in the long-term investments that land management with trees requires. Successful experiences are very instructive in identifying pathways to success in the countries where such policies continue to be lacking;
  14. Continual monitoring of activities on the ground that include socioeconomic and biophysical indicators as well as farmers’ perceptions is essential to ensure continuous improvements throughout the project and to reinforce the sustainability of the interventions.

Long-Term Management

  • Involvement of local government institution so that they can continue the activities and the best way to do it is;
  • Influencing policy at the local level;
  • Community by-laws on ecosystem restoration initiatives;
  • Creating a sense of ownership once the project ends;
  • Motivation plan with clear incentives and rewarding systems;
  • Developing tree-based value chains.

Sources and Amounts of Funding

European Union

Other Resources

Primary Contact

Susan Chomba

Regreening Africa Project, World Agroforestry



Organizational Contact