In the Sahelian regions of Burkina Faso and Mali, safeguarding wild species by increasing the ex situ conservation capacity of national partners and helping local communities sustainably use and propagate them, is one of the major objectives of the Millennium Seed Bank partnership (MSBP).
Baobab trees help to improve soil quality and reduce erosion
After selecting particular wild species that they would like to cultivate, communities are trained in specific techniques needed to promote germination, such as breaking seed coats, and how to tend the seedlings. The seedlings are then planted on farms and in home gardens, protecting the species from over-exploitation in the wild.
At Sikasso, in Mali, scientists have been trained in seed processing (credit: Moctar Sacandé)
Tree species such as acacia, baobab, and nere (Parkia biglobosa) are amongst those selected by farmers to improve the quality of the soil and reduce erosion. Trees also provide non-timber forest products including fruits and fodder. "We don't need to demonstrate the benefits of planting trees," explains Moctar Sacandé, MSBP international coordinator. "The communities already know the benefits. We are just providing them with a sustainable supply of good quality seeds and planting materials. This means that farmers don't have to rely on natural regeneration." The seed collections are also being used to improve nutrition by encouraging cultivation of wild food and fruit trees.
In Burkina Faso, the MSBP has helped to support the Centre National de Semences Forestieres (CNSF) in its activities. By planting tall grasses, such as Andropogon gayanus, which reduce water runoff and prevent soil erosion, CNSF is helping farmers rehabilitate their soil and restore the Sahel. The grass can also be harvested for thatch and fodder. The initiative has been so successful that both the Burkina Ministries of Environment and Agriculture are now promoting and sponsoring CNSF to extend their work in this area.
New Agriculturist, March 2010: Conserving wild plants in West Africa