The Australian Alternative Nobel, manufacturer of "low cost" forests

The Australian Alternative Nobel, manufacturer of "low cost" forests

The Australian agronomist Tony Rinaudo, winner of the so-called "Alternative Nobel", has succeeded in greening millions of semi-desert hectares with trees in Niger or Ethiopia with an innovative and low-cost technique.

Tree regeneration allows "new businesses to emerge, such as beekeeping, livestock fattening, sustainable timber extraction and sale, and so farmers can diversify and intensify," Efe Rinaudo explains by e-mail.

The agronomist picked up last Friday in Stockholm the prize of the Right Livelihood Foundation, also known as the "Alternative Nobel", along with the Guatemalan Thelma Aldana, three imprisoned Saudi activists and an innovative Burkinabe farmer.

In the case of the Australian, a member of the NGO World Vision Australia, the foundation highlighted its merit "for demonstrating on a large scale that dry lands can be re-greened at a minimum cost, improving the quality of life of millions of people".

Known as the "forest manufacturer" after living several decades in Africa, Rinaudo pioneered a technique called "low cost" by which trees are grown from their existing roots, thus helping farmers to regenerate and protect the vegetation of their communities.

"We also found that the risk in agriculture is lower: there are fewer floods, the impact of the drought is less severe and therefore, farmers are more likely to invest in improvements and obtain better yields and income," the expert notes.

His method of natural regeneration on a large scale (FMNR), which is based on what he calls "subterranean forests", involves the systematic restoration of trees from their fallen stumps, sprouted roots and seeds, integrating itself to the crops and pastures.

With the implementation of the FMNR "there is less flooding and the impacts of droughts are reduced, there is more biodiversity, the water cycle is often restored," he stresses.

One of these concrete examples, he adds, occurs in the southern part of Ethiopia, where thanks to the FMNR "thirteen springs that had dried up now flow permanently".

The Rinaudo technique, which World Vision Australia promotes in Africa and Southeast Asia, has helped for example to recover some 200 million trees in an area of ​​Niger of 50,000 square kilometers, thanks to social participation to green the earth.

In Niger, one of the countries of the African Sahel belt, the density of trees in the southern third was about 4 per hectare and the soils were extremely infertile and lacked organic matter and nutrients, so they had no capacity to retain Water.

Farmers in that area had to plant their seeds several times, women walked several hours to collect wood and when there was no cooking with straw and manure and livestock died or was too weak to nurse their young or pull the plow.

After the FMNR implementation "only in Niger, there are currently some 6 million hectares of agricultural trees that sequester one tonne of CO2 per hectare per year," says Rinaudo, adding that the gross income of its inhabitants increased by about 1,000 dollars ( 876 euros) per year.

In regions more humid than Niger, bordering the Sahara, the communities in which the forests are restored are estimated to be sinkholes of about 15 tons of CO2 per hectare per year.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) considers that agricultural innovation can be a tool to limit global warming, in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change and forced migration in places like the Sahel due to desertification.

Rinaudo believes that "if the FMRN were to be applied in one billion hectares and if the average rate of CO2 sequestration were two tons per hectare per year, this would be a significant contribution to mitigate climate change."

For the Australian agronomist, the key is "to work with nature, instead of fighting against it".

Rocío Otoya


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