Mother Nature Is Easy


The current issue of NewScientist has a fascinating interview with Chris Reij, who studies natural resource management in Africa.  (Sorry, the site is subscription-only.) In Niger, he’s seeing farmers fight the desertification brought on by climate change–and the creeping Sahara–with the most low-tech of solutions: They’re allowing trees to grow up on their land.

They’re defying the rules of modern agriculture, which demand treeless fields, and also bad policy that has long made trees government property, giving the farmers every incentive to chop them down and sell them for firewood. And since the trees provide food for their livestock, they’ve now got a manure source to improve the soil and make it that much less likely to dry up and blow away.

This story makes me think that Mother Nature is amazingly cooperative, and it takes a really towering arrogance to screw up a relationship with her.


  1. Hi –
    I saw a clip about that on television last night. The local tribes are growing sappling trees, cutting off the treetops for easy movement and planting them.
    They also showed an aerial view of the projects. I couldn’t figure out why the trees were planted in the patterns they chose. Did you pick up anything from the article about that aspect?
    Dear God will humans ever learn the basics? Trees attract rain, hold the soil in place, drop leaves to feed the land, on and on.
    We are a slow lot aren’t we?

  2. While climate change is most certainly increasing desertification in the subSaharan region, the primary cause of desertification has been known for more than sixty years–deep furrow plows. (The French government discovered this in 1938.) African topsoils are much thinner than those of Europe, and deep plowing erodes the topsoil. European agribusiness, however, insists on using these plows to grow food crops for the European market.

Comments are closed.