I had dinner last night in Berkeley with a good friend. She'd been in the Peace Corps in Africa a few years ago. She told us she was glad to see the very positive article about Niger on the front page of the Sunday New York Times. I hadn't had a chance to read the Times yet, but when I got home I made sure to check it out. And it is indeed as hopeful as my friend said. You can find it here (registration required).
The article tells of the steady improvement in the planting and growing of trees in this African country. Things were pretty bad before they started getting better. As author Lydia Polgreen writes:
Severe drought in the 1970s and ’80s, coupled with a population explosion and destructive farming and livestock practices, was denuding vast swaths of land.
She goes on to write that a change in how farmers view and use trees, and a change in how government rules state who owns the profit from the trees, has led to farmers seeing that a tree is worth more to them alive than cut up as firewood. They can sell limbs rather than the whole tree, harvest the seeds for fodder, sell the leaves or use them for mulch, eat the fruit. In addition, the trees help hold the groundwater, improving farming conditions. This isn't just a small change. The article says that millions of new trees are growing in Niger.
For many years just about the only articles we'd read about Africa brought us negative news. War and famine and disease have been the stories most reported in our newspapers. That's why it's great to see this article telling us an African success story. Please go check it out at the New York Times website.