Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Activity report nr. 3

In 2010 food shortages will affect more than 3 million people in Niger (in particular in the Regions of Tahoua, Maradi, Zinder and Diffa). Reason: the 2009 rains arrived late, stopped early and were erratic. People and livestock will depend more heavily on trees and on food aid. A national re-greening program would help increase resilience to drought.

ARI is promoting farmer-managed natural regeneration to support farmers to adapt to climate change, improve household food security and reduce rural poverty. It wants to do so by scaling up existing smaller and bigger successes. It is increasingly urgent to do so, because many more land users in Africa’s drylands risk “falling off the edge” . Business as usual is no longer an option.

Some comforting news. Several studies indicate that investing in ecosystem restoration increases production and helps keep people on the land. The village of Ranawa on the northern part of the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso is an interesting example. Due to recurrent drought, land degradation and food shortages, it lost 25% of its population between 1975 and 1985. Since land rehabilitation activities (=ecosystem restoration) began in 1984/85, not a single family has left the village and several families returned from the southwest where they had tried to settle. Between 1985 and 1996 its population doubled. This may be an extreme case, but there is some evidence that the demographic dynamics of villages which invest in their natural resources are different from those in which little or no investments are made.

Some highlights since early March

1. Another visit to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

The main reason for re-visiting Rome on March 25 and 26, shortly after the panel at IFAD’s Governing Council, was to participate in a meeting about scaling up successes. At the same time the organizers at IFAD created opportunities for presenting results of the Sahel study as well as information about African Re-greening Initiatives and how we try to scale up existing successes.
I am working in development cooperation since 1977 and have made quite a few presentations at donor agencies…in particular in the last few years. Reactions to the re-greening initiative tend to be positive. Yet, the presentations at IFAD were a new experience, mainly because of the overwhelmingly positive reactions of participating staff members.

The IFAD West and Central Africa Division will have its annual retreat at the end of April. One of the agenda items will most likely be whether or not they will support re-greening activities in the Sahel. They may well do so, because IFAD already has a very successful re-greening project in Niger’s Aguie department and in Burkina Faso they have funded land rehabilitation for 20 years. They can build on experience obtained in several existing projects.

Our challenge is to improve the livelihood perspectives of these Malian children living on the Seno plains. The agroforestry parkland of their village is young and expanding. Protecting and managing natural regeneration is a low-cost, cost effective pathway to agricultural intensification. Also poor farmers can afford it.

2. Presentation at “Nederlandse vogelbescherming” (Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds”

Increasing the number of on-farm trees produces multiple impacts….like reducing wind speed and local temperatures, increasing the availability of fodder, firewood, etc. Until now we have overlooked that it also has a positive impact on millions of European songbirds, which migrate to the Sahel to spend the winter in this region.

On April 7 a presentation was made to staff of the Netherlands Society for the Protection of Birds. Their intention is to develop significant re-greening action in the Sahel and to submit a proposal to a foundation in the Netherlands. Impact on European birds is a pinoff…improving rural livelihoods is key. I have informed our re-greening coordinators in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger (Mary Allen, Mathieu Ouedraogo and Prof. Toudou) about this development. Mathieu’s reaction was…several farmer innovators are feeding and watering birds in the dry season….because their droppings contain tree seeds and they help control pests.

3. Launch of the documentary about Yacouba Sawadogo (“The Man Who Stopped The Desert”)

On March 26 the documentary about farmer innovator Yacouba Sawadogo was launched officially in a cinema in Norwich (UK). You can go to to watch the trailer. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive. Mark Dodd, who made the documentary, is now approaching TV channels to show it.

4. State of the World 2011

The Washington-based Worldwatch Institute has a long history of producing annual “State of the World” reports, which are read by policy makers, journalists, farmer organisations and many other stakeholders. We will contribute a chapter to “State of the World 2011”.

5. Developing an International Advisory Group and creating a pool of specialists in re-greening: first steps

As mentioned before, African Re-greening Activities is about developing a movement, which is owned by its stakeholders. This movement is growing and will continue to do so. It is important to create an international advisory group composed of national coordinators, external specialists and representatives of funding agencies. Reflection about its composition and tasks has begun. Such an advisory group should meet at least once a year.

Because re-greening activities in Africa will increase, it is urgent to begin composing a pool of specialists, who can design new programs, train land users, initiate and participate in national policy dialogue, etc.

The national coordinators have been asked for suggestions regarding the composition of the International Advisory Group as well as for the pool of re-greening specialists.

6. What next?

During the next four weeks, the main thrust will be on developing a re-greening initiative in Ethiopia. A proposal will be submitted to Adessium Foundation in the Netherlands before the end of May.

Important opportunities for advocacy are emerging ....June 1 Davos, June 5 Bonn, June 26 – 28 Cape Town. More about this in the next activity report.

But remember…you can all be champions of re-greening.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Latest news from African Re-greening Initiatives

January 29, 2010. Early morning sun over the Seno plains from the escarpment of the Plateau Dogon (Mali). At the foot of the escarpment one finds low tree densities on sand dunes, but beyond that a “sea” of on-farm trees can be seen, which are mostly young. A quick study should be done to look at the scale of this recent re-greening, which is significant.

Surprises keep emerging also in the beginning of 2010. The conclusion of the last activity report of 2009 was that we begin riding a wave. That’s the case. African Re-greening Initiatives is not about a big project with a cloud of money, but about creating a movement and a process….involving others….We know where we come from, we know where we are, but we do not yet know where this is going to end.

Here is some news about the first weeks of 2010.

1. Leslie Hill of FINHUMF and José Molina (tourism expert) visited Burkina Faso and Mali in the last week of January. Our re-greening coordinators in both countries participated in the visit. The dynamics observed are considerable. Although funding for the re-greening initiatives in Burkina and Mali became available barely six months ago (June 1, 2009) a movement is already emerging. Discussions with farmers who already protected and managed on-farm natural regeneration, show a great awareness of the multiple benefits of re-greening.

2. SahelECO and partners concentrate their activities in the first year on the Mopti region where it can build on earlier work. Meetings were held in three places and in all cases a wide spectrum of partners (non-governmental organisations, technical ministries and elected officials) participated. 10 – 12 organisations participated in each of the meetings. All partners emphasized their interest in promoting farmer-managed natural regeneration and some have mobilized funding from other sources to do so. Three field visits showed the considerable dynamics that the re-greening activities in Mali can tap into and build upon. Adapting national forestry legislation, by removing some ambiguities in it, is regarded a key activity. Informing farmers about the contents of the current legislation and what this means to them is also important.

Photo 2:Farmers on the Seno plains in Mali have already built tree based production systems on a large scale….and are very aware of the multiple impacts. Their future depends on trees. This photo shows the group exchanging with a farmer.

3. Although it would be possible to show many pictures of on-farm re-greening in the areas visited, it is good to show here one picture of what is one of the astonishing features of agriculture on Mali’s Dogon Plateau…and unique in Africa. With project support farmers have built the last three decades dozens of small dams across valley floors. This created reservoirs and farmers literally constructed new fields on bare rock along the reservoirs. They collected soil elsewhere, carried it in baskets on their heads to the bare rock....constructed shallow fields on the rock, created a grid pattern in order to irrigate efficiently and produce onions. A narrow green belt snakes through the valleys and in the dry season tens of thousands of tons of shallots are produced and exported to other regions.

Photo 3: Irrigation just outside Sangha on the Dogon Plateau; Most irrigation is by hand, but some pumps are used. Also in this case shallots dominate, but some cabbage and lettuce is also cultivated. (January 27, 2010).

4. The re-greening initiative in Burkina Faso has selected six provinces for intervention and it is now operational in 103 villages. The initiative collaborates closely with elected officials at the “Commune” level. In different “Communes” areas are demarcated in which villagers will protect and manage natural regeneration. Some of these transects are along major roads, which means that regeneration will be visible to those driving along it. The transect along the main road (Ouagadougou – Dori) on both sides of the village of Banh is about 26 km long and 1 km large. Villagers will be involved in the monitoring and evaluation of regeneration…and researchers will select a sample of transects for the study of regeneration and its impacts.

Photo 4: transects are demarcated where natural regeneration will be protected and managed by villagers.

5. In the first week of February partners in the Web Alliance for Regreening Africa (W4RA) met in Ouagadougou to learn from existing experience with the use of ICT in agriculture and to begin the process of designing a 3 year project proposal, which will as soon as possible be submitted for funding. Key challenge is to link internet, rural radio and mobile phones… share knowledge and information relevant to re-greening between stakeholders and to create access to this info to all those interested in it wherever they are.

6. A two day field visit preceded the workshop to allow all partners to familiarize themselves with field realities. Participants included: Steve Bratt and Stéphane Boyera (World Wide Web Foundation), Prof. Hans Akkermans (Director of the Network Institute of VU University Amsterdam), George Sadowki (Director ICANN) and Prof. Saa Dittoh (University of Development Studies, Tamale, Ghana).

If you are interested in more info go to:

click on regreening in Africa and in text click on “workshop on mobile web for rural development in Burkina Faso 3-4 February”. You will find there the program and the minutes of the workshop.

7. Antoine Kalinganire, the Sahel coordinator of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) also participated in the workshop and the opportunity was used to discuss collaboration between the World Agroforestry Centre and African Re-greening Initiatives. Frank Place, economist of ICRAF, also happened to be in Ouagadougou and we discussed designing a research project on the “economic valuation of agroforestry in the Sahel”. Such a research project is highly needed as the multiple benefits of agroforestry in the Sahel continue to be under-estimated. We all agreed it is urgent and Frank Place will design a first draft proposal.
8. Good news….IUCN Netherlands is developing and supporting a re-greening initiative in the Sahel and some of our partners have been approached. We will contact IUCN to get more info and to explore possibilities for synergy.

9. Our partner Both Ends ( has just submitted to the Turing Foundation (created by the owners of Tom Tom) a proposal for funding a re-greening initiative in Niger. Funding has been requested for a modest two year program….but as soon as this is up and running we will try to mobilize additional funding.

10. Re-greening partners from World Vision in Northern Ghana expressed an interest to visit sites in Burkina Faso and in Mali. This will be arranged.

11. A message was received from Mr. Wanga Masakhalia of the Pastoralist Integrated Support Project in Marsabit, Kenya. Mr. Masakhalia is interested to promote re-greening of the Chalbi desert. Two days after rfeceiving this message, I happened to meet Karen Witsenburg of Both Ends….who wrote a PhD with Adano Wario Roha about “Surviving Pastoral Decline: pastoral sedentarisation, natural resource management and livelihood diversification in Marsabit District, Northern Kenya”. One of their findings is that sedentarisation has not led to widespread environmental degradation. My plan is forward the message of Mr. Masakhalia to Adrian Cullis, Karen and Adano and others in our network who are knowledgeable about pastoralism.

Some upcoming events
12. The Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will meet in Rome on February 17 and 18. A panel will be held on February 18 on successes in agriculture and natural resource management in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mary Allen (coordinator re-greening initiative in Mali) and Chris Reij (facilitator ARI) will be on the panel. More about this in next activity report.

13. On March 9 and 10 researchers from Columbia University, Stockholm University and VU University Amsterdam will meet in Amsterdam to explore possibilities for creating a consortium to do research on the biophysical and other impacts of re-greening in the Sahel.

14. On March 26 the documentary about Yacouba Sawadogo, farmer innovator in Burkina Faso, will be launched in Norwich. Its title: The man who stopped the desert”.

“Coming out of the stone age”

15. As the Web Alliance for Re-greening Africa will get shape….I will in the course of 2010 begin to stop with sending ARI activity reports to individuals….but the activity reports (as well as other products) will begin to be published on different websites. My ICT colleague just created a blog….on which you can find some of activity reports of 2009….we will gradually upload all old activity reports and publish the new ones on it.

For more info….please contact

Chris Reij
Center for International Cooperation
VU University Amsterdam


Wendelien Tuyp

Friday, 12 February 2010

African Re-greening in Amsterdam and Washington

From right to left: Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Mathieu Ouedraogo, Yacouba Sawadogo and Chris Reij during a press conference at VU University Amsterdam on October 20, 2009

Some highlights of the remarkable month of October 2009

1. The report for September 2009 had stories about the article in Le Monde on August 21, the documentary shown by BBC World about re-greening in Burkina Faso and Mali as well as the short field visit to Burkina by the director of VU Amsterdam’s Network Institute and other VU colleagues to generate ideas for using modern communication techniques to spread info relevant to re-greening. October was a remarkable month, because partners from the Sahel travelled to Amsterdam and to Washington to inform very different audiences about their experience with farmer-managed natural regeneration.

Mathieu Ouedraogo and Yacouba Sawadogo in Amsterdam at the occasion of a honorary doctorate for Sir Tim Berners-Lee

2. Twenty years ago Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology of Harvard University, invented the world-wide-web, which caused a global revolution in communication. On October 20 VU University awarded him an honorary doctorate for it. Sir Tim has recently created the World Wide Web Foundation, which recognizes that 1.5 billion people have access to the net, but 4.5 billion people still don’t have access. A major objective of the WWW Foundation is to increase access and the first project selected is the African Re-greening Initiative. This new project is called W4RA or Web alliance For Re-greening Africa. It combines our African partners with the WWW Foundation, the (interdisciplinary) Network Institute and the Center for International Cooperation of VU University. A workshop will be held in Burkina Faso in the first week of February 2010 with all partners to develop a proposal.

3. On the morning of October 20, a symposium was held at VU University on “The World Wide Web and Social Development” in which Sir Tim looked at the future of the WWW. This was followed by presentations by two key persons of the WWW Foundation, Steve Bratt and Stéphane Boyera. The second half of the morning’s program was about the scale and impacts of re-greening, about how to build on current successes and the role modern communication technologies can play in this process. Before the coffee break the trailer was shown of the documentary by Mark Dodd about the life of Yacouba Sawadogo “The Man Who Stopped the Desert”. It resonated well with the 300 participants. It put Yacouba’s life and work into perspective. Subsequently, Mathieu and Chris got 45 minutes to present the African Re-greening Initiatives and the Chair of the Board closed the symposium with a short speech expressing his support. This was immediately followed by a press conference and several Dutch newspapers wrote the next day about the achievements of Sir Tim Berners-Lee, but also mentioned Yacouba and his impact on land rehabilitation in the Sahel.

4. With Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Bratt, Stéphane Boyera, Prof. Hans Akkermans (Director VU Network institute) and his colleagues, we have new and formidable partners for the African Re-greening Initiatives. The many positive reactions of staff of the Faculty of Science involved in the Network Institute as well as of the Board of VU University, were very encouraging.

Washington “The Other Green revolution: How farmers reclaimed the desert to create an agricultural future for Africa”

5. The Obama administration is developing a “Global Food Security Policy” and will invest about 3.5 billion dollars in it. This initiative is subjected to considerable pressure to develop a conventional package: chemical fertilizers, new seeds, irrigation, mechanization, etc. OXFAM America decided that it would be useful to insert some other ideas into the debate and invited a delegation from the Sahel to Washington to tell about the scale and the impacts of investments in natural resource management during the last 20 to 30 years. The delegation from the Sahel was composed as follows:

Mr. Issa Martin Bikienga Deputy Executive Secretary of the Permanent Inter-State Committee on Drought Control in the Sahel (CILSS)
Ms. Edwige Botoni (CILSS)
Mr. Mahamane Larwanou (African Forest Forum)
Ms. Sakina Mati (organizes women in six villages in Niger’s Aguié department around farmer-managed natural regeneration)
Mr. Mathieu Ouedraogo (coordinator Burkina Re-greening Initiative).
Mr. Yacouba Sawadogo (farmer innovator Burkina Faso)
and the undersigned…(facilitator African Re-greening Initiatives)

Mark Dodd and his crew accompanied the activities in Amsterdam and in Washington to finalize the one hour documentary about Yacouba.

The Sahel delegation on the steps of Lincoln Memorial. From Left to right Sakina Mati, Yacouba Sawadogo, Chris Reij, Edwige botoni, Issa Martin Bikienga, Mahamane Larwanou and Mathieu Ouedraogo
Let’s briefly look at some of the key events:

6. Presentation at Capitol Hill in the room of the Committee on Foreign Affairs to about 30 staffers of members of Congress (October 27). These staffers are the eyes and ears of Congress members. Both Yacouba Sawadogo and Sakina Mati (below right) made excellent short statements about the impacts of their work.

Just before the presentation in the Rayburn Building at Capitol Hill. From left to right: Mathieu, Chris, Edwige, Larwanou, and Sakina.

7. Presentations at World Wildlife Fund on October 28 by Mahamane Larwanou and Issa Martin Bikienga. About 30 participants. They made impact.

8. The major event was on October 29 in the Ronald Reagan Building. Three panels about the theme “The Other Green Revolution: Farmer-Managed, Agro-Environmental Transformation in the Sahel”. About 150 participants. Key note speaker: Mr. Franklin Moore, who is Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa and the Obama Administration’s Global Food security Coordinator. Three panels: 1. Voices from the Sahel; 2. Practitioner’s Insights into the Obama Administration’s Global Food Security Initiative and 3. US Policy and The Other Green Revolution.

9. The reactions were overwhelmingly positive. It is of course not possible to predict whether the presentations will have an impact on the contents of the Global Food Security Initiative. The political pressures for a conventional approach are big. To use a biblical parallel, ee are like David against Goliath. However, the reactions of various USAID staffers were such that we may hope that USAID will get involved in the promotion of farmer-managed natural regeneration.

10. The key message that we all hammered on was….by protecting and managing natural resources in general, and on-farm natural regeneration in particular, you not only help farmers to adapt to climate change, you also help increase food production and reduce rural poverty. Trees are the backbone in this process.

11. A lunch presentation at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) with about 100 participants. Also here…the message fell on fertile ground. If you like to watch the presentations we made at IFPRI…go to: and go to Other Green Revolution. Worthwhile to also quickly look at the one minute trailer on Millions-Fed: Provcn Successes. Or go to:

From left to right: Yacouba Sawadogo, Rajul Pandya-Lorch (IFPRI’s Head of the Vision 2020 program) and Sakina Mati.

12. Other activities in Washington? Meetings with journalists (Washington Post, Bloomberg, Reuters… It should be mentioned here that Gray Tappan of the US Geological Survey and our key remote sensing specialist joined us on October 28 during the presentation at World Wildlife Fund and before leaving Washington Gray Tappan and Mahamane Larwanou were interviewed by the National Public Radio (NPR) and this interview will be broadcast several times on NPR during the month of November. Gray Tappan has recently been diverted to coastal West Africa, but we need him back in the Sahel heartland for baseline studies as well as for the monitoring of changes in land use and vegetation

13. A reception offered by the Embassy of Burkina Faso allowing informal meetings with the Ambassador of Burkina Faso (H. E. Dr. Ernest Yonli) and the Ambassador of Niger (H.E. Mrs. Toure A.D. Maiga). The Ambassador of Burkina Faso in Washington was many years Burkina’s Prime Minister until a year ago.

14. OXFAM America managed to arrange a tourist visit to the White House, which was not easy as this has to be formalized well in advance. I had a slight moment of panic when Yacouba wanted to rest and sat down on an early 19th century chair, which looked a bit fragile, but it ended well.

15. In terms of advocacy and partnership building, October was an extraordinary month. Our friends and colleagues from the Sahel did an extraordinary job. We want to express our strong appreciation to Melinda Smale and her colleagues of OXFAM America as well as to Aimée Niane of IFPRI, who moved mountains of work to get the Sahel delegation to Washington and to organize the program. How Yacouba and Sakina managed to get their messages across during the formal presentations with the support of respectively Issa Martin Bikienga and Mahamane Larwanou….. was a miracle. They even did not seem to nervous !!

16. This is not going to be the end of the story. We will try to monitor the impact of this visit to Washington and brief you about it in the next activity reports.

Mark Dodd (center), Ashley Norton (left) and Mariam Arnett (interviews…not on this photo)
at Capitol Hill. The documentary about Yacouba will be finalized early 2010.

17. Much more happened in October. For instance, Dr. Laurent Sedogo, Burkina’s Minister of Agriculture made a presentation in Iowa at the event of the World Food Prize; Dr.Dennis Garrity, the DG of the World Agroforestry Center, visited the Zinder region in Niger; a meeting with the Adessium Foundation in the Netherlands and their decision to support the preparation of an Ethiopia Re-greening Initiative. More about this in the next activity report.

18. I like to end this activity report on a personal note, which is a bit unusual, but it’s a nice story. Of course, it is motivating to present the African Re-greening Initiatives to very different audiences, to tell about the scale and multiple impacts of re-greening and to paint a picture of Africa that is quite the opposite of the perceptions that most people have about Africa. After my presentation in the second panel on October 29, I got off the stairs of the podium, a young African woman (from Namibia) walked up to me…and said “I feel so encouraged by your story, allow me to hug you”. She did not wait for an answer…and gave me two big hugs in the middle of that big meeting room. Well….that never happened before. It demonstrates that all of us have a story to tell that inspires and shows that it is possible to improve the livelihoods of millions of Africans living at the edge in drought-prone regions.

9 November 2009

African Re-greening activities September 2009

This picture was taken on September 27, 2009 in the Yatenga region of Burkina Faso. These are the fields of Ousséni Kindo. These fields were barren in 1985. Mr. Kindo is what is called a precision farmer. He treats each niche of his fields differently and has developed a system of conservation farming with numerous trees. He will get an excellent harvest this year. His son controls the grazing of cattle.

Some highlights of the last 30 days


1. In the third week of September, BBC World showed the documentary on re-greening in Burkina and Mali 4 or 5 times. The information reached us a bit late. None of us has been able to watch. However, the Earth reports of BBC World are viewed by about 250 million people all over the world…so the message is spreading. Mathieu Ouedraogo and Mary Allen, our coordinators in Burkina and Mali, play a key role in this documentary. The producers will send a DVD. We’ll explore the costs of making a French version of this documentary.

2. Had a brief discussion on skype with Peter Weston of World Vision Australia about a strategy for developing re-greening initiatives in Africa. This will be given a follow-up in the near future. My assessment is that building tree-based production systems will more easily find funding. Reason is that it is the only low cost way for farmers to sustainably intensify agriculture and at the same time adapt to climate change. Our challenge is to develop proposals as well as to develop the organisational capacity in different countries to implement these proposals. The continuing food (prize) crisis and the growing attention for adaptation to climate change will give us wind in the back.

3. Just a remark….our current knowledge of what farmers have already done to develop tree based production systems (agroforestry) is largely insufficient. We know about a number of cases, but much remains to be uncovered. Two years ago I travelled the road between Koutiala and San in Mali….and was impressed by the natural regeneration in the agroforestry parkland. Who has analyzed this case ? We still need a more systematic effort to identify and analyze existing successes upon which we can build !!!


4. At present Dr. Dennis Garrity, the Director General of the World Agroforestry Center, is travelling in Niger’s Zinder Region (October 5 – 9), to look himself at the large-scale on-farm re-greening. From Niger he will continue to Burkina Faso and Mali. Our colleague Mahamane Larwanou of the African Forest Forum acts as guide and Antoine Kalinganire of the Sahel program of the World Agroforestry Center is also part of this mission. Will try to update you in the next activity report.

5. CARE Denmark is funding a new project on farmer-managed natural regeneration in the southern part of the Maradi region (Niger).

6. Prof. Toudou has developed a first draft for a Niger proposal, which will be submitted by Both Ends to the Turing Foundation


7. The partners of the re-greening initiatives in Burkina Faso and Mali met on September 25 and 26 in Gourcy to discuss monitoring and evaluation as well as project implementation. What is going to be monitored, how and by whom? Réseau MARP will develop a system for self-monitoring by farmers. All agreed that establishing a good baseline situation is vital.

8. On this occasion, partnership contracts were signed between VU University Amsterdam and Reseau MARP and with SahelECO. There was excellent chemistry between all participants and a shared vision of the importance of promoting tree-based production systems in the Sahel.

9. On October 2, Mathieu Ouedraogo and Chris Reij had a 40 minute meeting with Dr. Laurent Sedogo, the Minister of Agriculture. Objective: brief him about the re-greening initiative and propose the organisation of an information session for key staff of the three ministries (agriculture, environment, livestock) and the directors of major agricultural development projects. The minister agreed and a date will soon be set. This may lead to mainstreaming of agroforestry in the major projects.


10. Adessium Foundation is willing to fund the preparation of a re-greening initiative in Ethiopia. A meeting with Adessium Foundation will take place on October 13. This is very good news. Whether they will fund the initiative depends of course on their evaluation of the final proposal. More info in the next activity report.

W4RA (Web for Re-greening in Africa)

11. This is the likely title of a new project to be developed by the Network Institute of VU University and the Web Foundation. As mentioned in the previous activity report, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world-wide-web, will receive on October 20, a honorary doctorate of VU University. The new project will be developed around this honorary doctorate. This new project will be built around the African Re-greening Initiatives and its sister project SCI-SLM (Supporting Community initiatives in Sustainable Land Management).

12. From September 26 – 29, a fact-finding mission took place in Burkina; Objective: generate ideas for the new project. Participants in this mission: Prof. Akkermans, Director of the Network Institute, ICT colleague Anna Bon, communication specialist Wendelien Tuyp, Chris Reij (all VU University) and Prof. Saa Dittoh (University of development Studies, Tamale, Ghana). Adama Belemvire and Mathieu Ouedraogo participated in a meeting in Ouagadougou.

13. This fact-finding mission did the following:

- A meeting with the elders of the village of Ranawa about how they use mobile phones. Each of the 160 families in this village has at least one member with a mobile phone. What they use them for…how they recharge batteries in a village without electricity….how they recharge their credits.

- A visit to the fields of Ousseni Kindo and Yacouba Sawadogo.

From left to right: Ouesseni Kindo, Mathieu Ouedraogo, Wendelien Tuyp, Anna Bon, Hans Akkermans and Saa Dittoh. They are standing on barren soil. This is what the field in the background was like in 1985.

- A visit to two cyber cafés in Ouahigouya.
- A meeting with the radio station “Voice of the Farmer” in Ouahigouya. Chris was after the meeting immediately drawn into the studio for a live interview.
- A visit to the mayor of Ouahigouya to draw his attention to the forest created by Yacouba Sawadogo and the threats to this forest.
- A meeting with the telecom company Zain (Celtel) in Ouagadougou. They have 1.5 million subscribers. Zain is interested in the re-greening initiative (corporate responsibility). It is possible, for instance, to craft short messages about trees and send these to all 1.5 million subscribers.

14. The key challenge is…how can we use all modern means of communication to share and spread info relevant to re-greening initiatives (from on-farm natural regeneration to community-based forest management). A workshop will be organized early in 2010 which will involve more partners. The Network Institute and the Web Foundation will mobilize funding for W4RA. One thing is obvious….relevant educational material will be collected and developed and put on a new website. Youth and women will get specific attention.

Upcoming events

15. On October 20, a symposium will be held at VU University on The World Wide Web abd Social Development (see Speakers: Hans Akkermans, Tim Berners-Lee (The World Wide Web – Humanity Connected)….Mathieu Ouedraogo and Chris Reij will have 50 minutes !!!! to present “Regreening Africa’s Drylands”. Interesting challenge. At this symposium the trailer will be shown “The man who stopped the desert”. This is about Yacouba Sawadogo, our farmer innovator from the Yatenga. He will be a guest of honour at this symposium. Mark Dodd, the documentary maker will be there to film and he will also be in Washington to finalize the documentary (see next point).

16. As also mentioned in the previous activity report, OXFAM America and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) jointly organize a public panel on “Greening the Sahel”. It promises to become a big event. More in the next activity report, which you can expect just before mid-November…or earlier if there is groundbreaking news.

The invention of Tim Berners Lee triggered a booming cybercafe business in Ouagadougou and elsewhere. Watch the interesting name of this cybercafé in Ouagadougou.

Chris Reij
Center for International Cooperation,
VU University Amsterdam

Tel. + 31 20 5989090
E: or

October 7, 2009