Regenerating Shea Parklands across a savannah landscape
Innovative business-thinking Eco Restore and their partners are creating a new vision of integrated landscape management in North Ghana.
West Africa has witnessed extensive tree cover loss over recent decades. Land use change, mechanisation of farming, chemical use, mining, logging, fallow loss and expansion of urban areas, all greatly impact the ecology of savannah landscapes. This undermines soil fertility and reduces crop resilience, putting food security at risk. Combined with reduced biodiversity and ecosystem services, tree cover loss is a key problem faced by local communities in north Ghana and beyond.
Solutions exist to bring regenerative farming systems to millions of hectares of savannah landscapes. Through organic farming and holistic land management, growing populations will have a nutritious diet for decades to come, while increased tree cover and healthy savannah landscapes secures foundations for local to global commodity chains.
Modernizing the Ancient
North Ghana is an ancient agricultural landscape. For millennia people intercropped with trees in sustainable and productive farming systems. The traditional parkland management is designed to supply diverse nutritious food ingredients (e.g. shea, dawadawa, yams, leafy vegetables, legumes) and a wide range of wood and animal products. However, the local rotational farm-fallow management is now largely replaced by conventional farming practices and intensive agriculture.
Eco Restore modernises ancient practices to develop regenerative parkland management. In partnerships with international businesses - such as Bunge Loders Croklaan and Aduna - local farmers and field-teams combine scientific understanding with indigenous knowledge to restore local tree cover and bring soil-based solutions to promote an innovative, beyond-sustainable, regenerative farming sector in North Ghana.
Regenerative parkland management
Shea (Vitellaria paradoxa) grows across the semi-arid Sahel-Savannah Belt: an area covering 21 African countries. Farmers have managed shea trees on parklands for centuries due to its useful qualities and economic value. The tree grows well with root crops, cereals and legumes; it improves soils and aids water conservation; the fresh fruit is enjoyed each year; a butter produced from the shea seed is used as a cooking oil and a rich moisturiser - especially during the dry Hammattam months; and the residues of butter production provide mulch and organic fertilizer, making shea well suited to agroforestry.
There is a rich diversity of native tree species in the Sahel-Savannah Belt which provide a myriad of benefits. From nutritious food crops, cosmetic ingredients, natural dyes, fibre, wood fuel, livestock fodder; to diverse ecosystem services like soil fertility, filtering clean water and providing pollinator habitat.
Integrating the trees of North Ghana into regenerative parkland management offers incredible potential for soil restoration, improved local livelihoods and resilience against climate change.
Growing trees on-farm
Native tree planting and Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration (FMNR) are approaches to enrich existing tree cover. Working with local farmers to develop agroforestry on-farm, as well as demonstrating low intensity tillage and growing wood lots to provide locally sourced fuel, will restore tree cover and make North Ghana a rich and abundant landscape once more.
What we have achieved so far
- Operational tree nursery with capacity for 50,000 shea and 20+ species of other indigenous trees per year
- Partnered with additional local nurseries capable of raising 100,000s of native seedlings
- Community outreach in rural villages, co-creating future visions to improve landscapes
- Planted 6,000 high-quality guarded shea and other trees
- Preparations ongoing for 2020 and 2021 community tree growing packages
Role of business
- Packages of established growing native trees sold to businesses which source a range of natural products from the savannah landscape of north Ghana
- For-profit farmers invest into programs through provision of land, planting labour and tree-guard materials
- Biodiverse species range improves ecosystem services whilst providing non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and sustainable sources of wood-fuel
- Investments create better crop yields through improving soil and pollination services
- Regenerative shea, baobab and other tree crop management connects local farmers and cooperatives to international market
- Avoids short-term “only trees planted” thinking with sustainable engagement, maintenance and monitoring services with farmers who want to make a profitable income
From a 4 returns holistic perspective, what could be potential outcomes at a landscape level in 20 years?
This Landscape has the potential to turn the losses from degradation into 4 Returns. The ENABLE team identified potential 4 return outcomes at a landscape level over period of 15 to 20 years.
Return of inspiration
- An enriched, green, beautified and productive landscape bringing satisfaction for rural communities
Return of Social Capital
- Security in the landscape
- Creation of jobs in an innovative regenerative industry
- Landscapes that provide natural abundance for future generations
Return of Natural Capital
- Improved and regenerative soil fertility
- Creation of diverse habitat
- Improved habitat for migrating birds
- Climate resilience increased
Return of Financial Capital
- New regenerative industry offers space for business entrepreneurs
- Green investment opportunities
- Diverse farming system result in resilient rural livelihoods
- Conservation / forest-reserve areas for tourism, biodiversity, watershed management, wood-fuel harvesting
- Traditionally ‘rotational’ farm-fallow parklands supplying diverse nutritious ingredients (e.g. shea, yams, leafy vegetables, legumes, wood-fuel and livestock)
- Intensive, commercial food production zones for large-scale food (e.g. rice, maize, soya, sorghum) and intercropped tree-crop production (e.g. shea, cashew)