From a lunar landscape to a resilient ecosystem: the half-moons make the difference

By Naoufel Telahigue

Today I spoke at the Global Environment Facility’s (GEF’s) FifthAssembly in Cancun on partnerships that scale-up innovative community approaches. I focused on the Granary of Niger, the Maradi region and its small scale farming systems. These are vital to food security across the whole country.

Agriculture employs 95 per cent of the rural population in the region and generates about one fourth of the country’s cereal production. The region is also known for its income generating chufa sedge production. Shrinking land availability and amplified crop failures are leading to increased dependence on fragile soils that  barely meet the increased demand for cereals in particular. The increased degradation of the production landscape has triggered an outmigration flow of youth to cities and neighbouring countries. 

The IFAD Food Security and Development Support Project in the Maradi Region (PASADEM) is committed to close this gap between supply and demand and to increase resilience of rural communities and their crucial production systems.

The programme is anchored in the country’s priorities through the government 3N initiative (Les Nigériens Nourrissent les Nigériens) and stems from local demand and knowledge.
PASADEM and its GEF Sustainable Land Management (SLM) investment pillar is sharing efforts with local communities to challenge harsh environmental conditions and to reverse desertification across the Maradi region. The key challenge was to engineer a small-scale cost-effective technology to fight a large scale expensive problem.

A miraculous solution was found in the half-moon technology which was combined with some social and institutional engineering. The establishment of a regional SLM platform in Maradi has shaped the overall political framework for the intervention. It has also contributed to the creation of an efficient planning and implementation mechanism by which 18 communities were able to promote these technical solution through the cash for work mechanism on common lands.

The initial investment is now reaching a cumulative total of 5,549 Ha of land that is totally rehabilitated in less than two years at an average unit cost of 430 US$/Ha.

The results are spectacular  – the half-moon dominated sites are more resilient to climate and drought risks and cereal production is now possible on bare soils. Half-moons are also used as water harvesting structures and they reduce erosion and generate other environmental benefits (increased population of wild animals and carbon storage etc.). Farmers, including the younger generation are now adopting this technology in their own fields, triggering an autonomous scaling-up effort and contributing to the sustainability of the project seed funding.