Notes to broadcasters
Instead of cutting down trees on their fields, some farmers are choosing to let some of them continue growing, leading to a wide range of benefits. These include a reduction in soil erosion, an improvement in soil quality, and better retention of soil moisture. Also, the trees left standing provide additional benefits by producing fruits, timber, medicinal herbs, fuelwood, and other valuable products. This radio script will explain the advantages of this practice, known as Farmer-managed natural regeneration, or FMNR.
In this script, we are going to learn more about the benefits of FMNR, not only for farmers and the community but also for the environment.
The script includes interviews with farmers who are practicing FMNR, as well as an expert who will delve into the technical benefits that FMNR offers to both farmers and the natural world.
You might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
You could also use this script as inspiration to produce a script on the same or a similar theme for your own radio station.
To prepare such a program, you could interview farmers who are implementing FMNR and experts on the agricultural and environmental benefits of FMNR.
You might want to ask them questions like the following:
- What is FMNR?
- What are the benefits and challenges with the practice of FMNR?
- What are some of the impacts of FMNR on productivity?
- What are some success stories regarding the practice of FMNR?
Estimated duration of the radio script with music, intro, and extro: 25 minutes.
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Hello listeners, welcome back to our farmer program, Farm right
. Today, we have a special focus on an interesting practice called Farmer-managed natural regeneration, or FMNR.
According to World Agroforestry, FMNR is an affordable and easy way of restoring and improving agricultural, forest, and pasture lands. It promotes regrowth from existing trees or from naturally-occurring tree seeds. Our focus today will be to discover the power of allowing certain trees to grow on your farm and the benefits if these trees are well-managed.
To help us delve deeper into the topic, we have Abdulai Lansah Alhassan, a senior research scientist at the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute in Ghana, who has studied FMNR extensively. We will also hear from Mrs. Asana Muah Bujanmie and Mrs. Salamatu Seidu, two strong women farmers who have experienced the positive impact of FMNR firsthand. Don’t go anywhere, we’ll be right back.
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Let’s dive right in! Mr. Lansah, what is Farmer-managed natural regeneration all about?
Simply put, it’s the natural practices farmers use to maintain or improve the natural system on their farms, such as vegetation and soil. It is a cost-effective approach to restore and improve degraded agricultural, forest, and pasture lands.
Thank you for the overview. Let’s focus on one central aspect of FMNR, the practice of allowing trees to naturally grow on farmland. What are the benefits of doing this?
Allowing trees to re-grow on the farm and managing them is part of FMNR practices. Farmers do not cut some of the trees that grow on their farms, but allow them to grow alongside their crops, and reap benefits from it. The benefits are enormous. Not only do the trees serve as windbreaks to protect crops on the farm from strong winds—especially during the rainy season—but they also provide edible products such as fruits, nuts, and leaves (herbs).
Also, having trees on farmland helps to maintain water in the soil. This is because where there are a lot of trees, the area receives a lot of rain, which is good for farming, and also because the trees shade the soil from the direct impact of the sun. And also because trees help improve soil structure and texture, allowing it to hold more water. Another benefit is that, during the farming season, farmers may have to cut some branches in order to reduce the shade provided by trees. In the process of doing this, farmers are able to get fuelwood for their households. The leaves that fall from the trees onto the ground provide their own benefits. They decompose and improve soil fertility.
As they decompose, they lose their carbon to the soil, while retains it. Basically, these are the direct benefits a farmer can gain by allowing trees to naturally grow on their farms. The trees regulate water in the soil, ensuring that soils retain sufficient water. They increase the amount of organic carbon in the soil, and they are a source of fuelwood for domestic use, especially in areas where wood is used as domestic fuel.
Fascinating! Are there any economic benefits as well?
Absolutely! The economic benefits are tied to the advantages I mentioned. For example, when a farmer cuts branches to reduce the shade provided by the trees during the farming season, he or she gets free domestic fuelwood. So the money to be spent on fuelwood can be saved for other things. Another economic benefit is linked to the decomposing leaves which contribute to organic carbon in the soil. This makes the soil fertile and reduces the need for fertilizers. This means that the farmer will need to apply less or no fertilizer at planting. They need less fertilizer for the same yield or the same fertilizer for more yield when the organic carbon of the soil is improved. Additionally, if the trees are economically valuable, like shea or dawadawa
, also called the African locust bean, as well as other trees, farmers can benefit from the fruits they produce.
Before we move on to our farmers, Mr. Lansah, can you provide a deeper explanation of the environmental benefits of FMNR?
Farmer-managed natural regeneration involves the regrowth and management of trees and shrubs from felled tree stumps, sprouting root systems, or seeds. This practice has so many environmental benefits. I have mentioned some briefly, but let me give you further details for our listeners. By using the practice over some years, we witness the remarkable restoration of soil particles and fertility. The regrowth of trees and shrubs helps bind soil particles. This makes the soil a friendlier environment for crops and other plants to grow. Another important environmental benefit is the ability to prevent erosion of the soil and retain more soil water. The regrowth of trees helps bind soil particles. As I explained earlier, the regrown trees and shrubs act as a natural shield, preventing soil erosion by wind or water. I have already mentioned FMNR’s ability to maintain a reliable water supply in the soil. An exciting aspect of FMNR is its positive impact on the diversity of life in the soil. The regrowth of trees and shrubs creates many kinds of habitats for a wide range of animals and insects. This fosters a more balanced ecosystem.
Also, certain tree species used in FMNR such as the moringa tree, helps to enrich the soil with nitrogen. They access nitrogen from the atmosphere and transfer it to the soil. Plants and crops in the area benefit from this nutrient and this leads to improved productivity and yield. All these benefits make FMNR a powerful tool for sustainable land management and agricultural practices.
Thank you, Mr. Lansah, for that explanation. I will come back to you to talk about challenges with the practice of FMNR. Now, let’s hear from our women farmers. Listeners, Mrs. Asana Muah Bujanmie is a 53-year-old woman farmer who lives in Pulima village in the Upper West region of northern Ghana. Mrs. Bujamie, please share your experiences with FMNR and your thoughts about what our expert has been explaining on the program so far. And tell us more about how you are implementing FMNR on your farm.
First, let me tell you more about my farm. I have an eight-acre piece of farmland I inherited from my parents, where I grow maize, groundnuts, and soybeans. I have been farming for the past 20 years and still counting. I have two types of trees that grow naturally on my farm: shea and dawadawa
Nice! Tell us how long you have been managing these trees on the farm.
I inherited the farm from my parents and the trees were already on the farm. So, for me the practice has been throughout my 20 plus years of farming.
Exciting! Who advised you on FMNR?
Nobody. I already knew about these two trees on the farm, so when I inherited the farmland, I decided to keep them so that I could reap the benefits.
Could you elaborate on the benefits you’ve had so far from these regenerated trees?
In fact, I have benefited a lot. Within a few years after I inherited the farmland, I began to harvest shea kernels. I sell some and use some for shea butter for domestic use. As for the African locust bean or dawadawa
trees, I started harvesting them some years ago, earlier than the shea kernels. The fruits and leaves are edible, and I mostly use them for my stews and soups. I also prepare delicious local juice from it as well. I use the additional income I make from selling shea and dawadawa
to support my husband to take care of our six children. At certain times, I have used the income from the sale of the kernels to pay my children’s school fees. I forgot to add that the trees are also medicinal. We use them as local remedies to treat certain sicknesses.
This is getting interesting. Dr. Lansah, can you confirm the medicinal benefits Mrs. Bujanmie is talking about?
Definitely, people use a lot of those trees for local medicinal purposes. They combine them with others for the treatment of ailments. So sometimes, when farmers find these common trees on their farms, they don’t destroy them. They may even nurture them to grow into big trees. Many kinds of shrubs can be cultivated to grow into trees so that the farmers can use either the roots, the bark of the tree, or the leaves for treating ailments. Trees such as mango and neem are examples of medicinal trees. There’s evidence that they can use the bark of the mango tree to treat a lot of ailments. So, when farmers find that tree on the farm, they nurture it and they can always benefit from it. The edible dawadawa
is also said to be medicinal.
Mrs. Bujanmie, I will come back to you for your final words. Now let’s speak with Mrs. Salamatu Seidu, a 53-year-old farmer from Tarsor village, also in the Upper West region.
Mrs. Seidu, please tell us about your experience.
Just like my sister farmer, I also have a four-acre piece of farmland where I grow maize and groundnuts. I have similar trees to what my sister mentioned earlier: the shea and the dawadawa
Do you also sell them to generate additional income?
I have very few dawadawa
trees growing on my farm, so I don’t sell them. I manage them for domestic use only—for stews and soups for my family. They are very nutritious and healthy. I also share some with my neighbours. But I have a lot of shea trees on my farm, and I harvest the kernels and sell them. You know farming is seasonal, so during the period when I’m waiting to harvest my crops, I can harvest some kernels and sell them to get surplus income to support the family. I have been yearning to understand this: Why do our men keep felling trees before every planting season despite all the benefits that they can get from these trees?
Interesting revelation here, and good question for the expert on the show. What do you think accounts for this practice by men farmers?
Men usually cultivate on a large scale, and they clear the trees just to make it easier to cultivate the land. When you have trees on the land and you bring a tractor to plough, it is very difficult. So sometimes they clear these trees for the ease of mechanization, which in the long run does not actually help in natural regeneration. So, I would advise them to maintain a balance between the two. But when women are involved in farming, they usually farm on smaller areas of land, and they can afford to leave some trees to benefit from, especially the economic ones. I would advise men to find a balance between clearing the land and allowing some trees to grow on farmland. Not just for the economic benefits, but also to help keep the soil rich with the organic carbon these trees can produce when the leaves decompose in the soil.
Are there challenges to the practice of FMNR?
Farmer-managed natural regeneration comes with its own set of challenges. The reasons why the practice is not common among men large-scale farmers is one of the major challenges. In addition, FMNR is a long-term practice and most farmers do not have the patience to reap its benefits.
Dr. Lansah, I have few more questions for you before we end the program. How should farmers care for re-growing trees?
Farmers should select the best five or six stems and cut off the rest. Any time they want wood, they can harvest some part of the tree. It could be the stems and then you allow new ones to grow in their stead.
When is the best time to cut trees for fuelwood when practicing FMNR?
The farmers can cut some of the stems for fuelwood any time the need arises. But the best time is either shortly before the rains start or shortly after the rains start in order to reduce shading of crops to be sown and also guarantee that moisture is available for the preserved stems and new shoots.
Do farmers need fertilizer when they practice FMNR? And my last question is: do they need to control weeds near the trees?
Practically, farmers do not need to apply fertilizer to trees and shrubs under this system. However, the fertilizer they apply to an annual crop could be used by the protected trees and shrubs. With weed control, because of the long dry season and the likelihood of bush fires, clearing weeds around preserved trees and shrubs will reduce the risk of losing them to bush fires.
Do you have any final words to farmers who are not practicing FMNR?
What I would tell farmers, especially those farming on a large scale is that, yes, FMNR practice is not easy, but in the long run, it is more beneficial. So, even if it doesn’t come easily, in the long run, it pays to practice FMNR.
Back to you, Mrs. Bujanmie. Your final words. It can be anything you missed and want to add to the conversation.
Let me add to the benefits I mentioned earlier. The trees serve as shade on my farm. Any time I am on the farm and the sun is so hot, my family and those who sometimes help me out on the farm take some rest under the trees. Imagine if there were no trees on the farm, how would we manage? Before we round up, I would like to add that the trees occupy space on my farmland. I would have used the space to expand my crop yield, but as the expert mentioned earlier, the benefits are far more than the challenges.
I would also add that, over the years during heavy rains, the strong winds that come with the heavy rains do not destroy my crops. And it is because of the trees. So, I would advise all listening farmers to start adopting the practice of allowing trees to grow on their farm. If they do not have trees growing, they can intentionally plant some so they can also ensure the benefits we have all mentioned and even more.
Hello, listeners. All too soon we have come to the end of another exciting and educative session on our program Farm right
. Today, we have learnt how beneficial allowing tress to naturally grow on your farmland can be for farmers, their households, and the natural ecosystem as a whole.
Our expert today was Abdulai Lansah Alhassan, a senior research scientist at the Savanna Agricultural Research Institute in Ghana. We also had Mrs. Asana Muah Bujanmie and Mrs. Salamatu Seidu, two strong women from the Upper West region of northern Ghana. Thank you all for joining us today on Farm right. Remember, FMNR is a simple and affordable practice that can bring numerous benefits to farmers. Give it a try and see the positive impact on your farms and communities. Until next time, farm right and take care.
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Contributed by: Linda Dede Nyanya Godji Incoom, Journalist, agrighanaonline.com
Reviewed by: Prof. Abazaami Joseph, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research (IIR), University for Development Studies, Tamale, Ghana.
Abdulai Lansah Alhassan, August 28, 2023
Asana Muah Bujanmie, April, 2023
Salamatu Seidu, April 2023