Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration of the Forest

by Liliana Usvat


Barren fields, degraded forests and grazing lands can be reforested.

It has been done and the example can be reproduced.

The ownership of the land is important in my opinion for caring in long term for these plants.

Many tree species have the ability to sprout from stumps and roots (Photo a.) after they are cut down. Globally, millions of hectares of seemingly treeless farm (Photo b.) and grazing lands still contain living tree stumps with this ability to sprout new shoots (stems). Trees also have regenerative capacity from soil seed banks. However, continuous grazing, cutting for firewood and clearing and burning for land cultivation deny these seeds and stems the chance to become trees.


The basic method of FMNR is very simple. The farmer selects the stumps he/she will utilize and decides how many stems will be allowed to grow on each stump, based on the farmers’ needs and ultimate purpose for reforestation. Excess stems are then cut. With the remaining stems, side branches are pruned off up to half way up the trunk. A good farmer will return each 2 to 6 months for a touch up pruning and thereby stimulate faster growth rates and produce straighter stems.

Above. Shoots sprouting from tree stump
FMNR depends on the existence of living
tree stumps, tree roots and seeds in the fields, grazing lands and degraded forests to be re-vegetated. New stems which can be selected and pruned for improved growth sprout from these stumps and tree roots.
Sprouting tree stumps and roots may look like shrubs and are often ignored or even slashed by farmers and foresters alike. However, with culling of excess stems and by selecting and pruning of the best stems, the re-growth has enormous potential to rapidly grow into trees.

Seemingly treeless fields may contain seeds and living tree stumps and roots which have the ability to sprout new stems and regenerate trees if given a chance. Even this ‘bare’ millet field in West Africa contains hundreds of living stumps per hectare which are buried beneath the surface like an underground forest.


Step 1.
Do not automatically slash all tree growth, but survey your farm noting how many and what species of trees are present.

Step 2.
Then select the stumps which will be used for regeneration.

Step 3.
Select the best five or so stems which will be pruned and cull unwanted ones. In this way, when a farmer wants wood he/she can cut the stem(s) that are needed and leave the rest to continue growing.
These remaining stems will increase in size and value each year, and will continue to protect the environment and provide other useful materials and services such as fodder, humus, habitat for useful pest predators and protection from the wind and sun. Each time one stem is harvested, a younger stem is selected to replace it.

What tools are used to prune trees?
The best implement to use is a saw because it provides a clean cut.

Who can practice FMNR?
With a little training, women and men, boys and girls, farmers and herders can practice this simple activity. It really depends on the community, the culture and who owns the trees and/or who has the right to utilize them.

When is FMNR practiced?
FMNR is normally practiced in the dry season when labour is more readily available but does not have to be restricted to a particular season.

Don’t cut downwards
When cuts are made downwards, the tree can be easily damaged through splitting or the bark may be stripped from the stem (right). Excessive damage will set back the plants ability to re-grow and the wound may become an entry point for disease and insects.

Protection from fire: The best protection from fire comes from the community itself. It is important to know the common sources of fire – lightning, accidental escape from cooking fires, deliberate lighting by children or herders wanting to encourage growth of green grass. Once the common causes are known communities can be encouraged to draw up a fire plan which includes both preventative and defensive measures.

On the prevention side, activities might include establishing local bylaws against unnecessary burning, establishing a fines system for infringements, clearing fire breaks, educating children and reducing fuel available to burn through regular pruning of trees and either heavy grazing of dry grass or harvesting and removal of dry grass.

Where is FMNR practiced?
FMNR is practiced on farmland, on degraded forest land and on grazing land. In fact, FMNR can be practiced wherever there are sprouting tree stumps and roots and where the individual or community wishes to restore trees to the landscape.
On individually owned farmland, FMNR is best managed by the farm owner as it is in her best interest to protect the trees.

Blog 43-365


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