The Aussie who helped transform African desert into 200 million trees

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Reforestation in Africa is feeding millions

It's been called "probably the largest positive environmental transformation in the Sahel and perhaps in all of Africa," by internationally acclaimed environmental specialist Chris Reij. A simple farming practice is turning desert plains into reforested and productive farmland.

Across Africa, World Vision and others are helping poor communities to practise and benefit from Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, or FMNR. World Vision’s Tony Rinaudo, one of the original champions of FMNR, is provide training and inspiration around the world.

Through FMNR, farmers prune the regrowth sprouting from tree stumps and roots. From their revitalised land, they are dramatically improving their harvests and livestock productivity, and increasing their income. Families have more food on the table, and the risk of famine has reduced and child nutrition has improved.

Tony started promoting FMNR in Niger in 1983. In that country alone, 200 million trees have since grown on five million hectares of degraded farmland. Over the last 10 years, World Vision has promoted FMNR in communities elsewhere across Africa and Asia, and at least one million more hectares of land have been regenerated. 

Nigerien farmers are now producing an additional 500,000 tons of cereals a year – enough to feed 2.5 million people. In some communities, increased crop harvests have significantly reduced the annual “hungry period” from six months to less than one month each year.

If you would like to read more about Tony’s incredible story and the methodology behind Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration, copies of Johannes Dietrich’s book and ebook “Tony Rinaudo – The Forestmaker” can be purchased here.

The Maradi region of southern Niger used to be an empty desert before FMNR work helped restore trees and shrubs across the landscape.

A hunger solution you can see from outer space

Satellite images show how far FMNR has spread across Africa’s desert plains. You can see the border of Niger and Nigeria from outer space. In Niger where FMNR is widespread there is abundant tree cover, but in Nigeria the land is barren.

Reforestation through FMNR is happening at an astonishing rate. In less than a generation regenerated trees are turning into forests.

Since success in Niger, Tony and World Vision have promoted FMNR across Africa - and beyond. Now millions of people worldwide are better equipped to overcome hunger and malnutrition.

Satellite photos taken in 1975 (left) and 2005 (right) show greatly increased tree cover in southern Niger. Trees are shown as black dots. Source: US Geological Survey.

Global snapshot: World Vision and FMNR


countries in Africa and Asia

Over the last 10 years, World Vision has promoted FMNR in communities across Africa and Asia.

1 million


At least one million hectares of land have been regenerated through FMNR across Africa and Asia in the last 10 years.

6 million


At least six million people have improved their crops and reduced hunger through FMNR.

Tony demonstrates the simple pruning that helps small shrubs grow into tall trees.

Tony’s eureka moment

It dawned on me how useless it all was. In every direction there were no trees. But then these shrubs caught my eye, and I suddenly realised this wasn’t a shrub but a tree trying to regrow.

Tony Rinaudo, World Vision Australia

In 1983, a young Aussie was driving down a dirt track in Niger when he stopped to change a flat tyre. Tony Rinaudo had spent two years introducing sustainable agricultural practices to farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, a region plagued by drought and famine. He tried to plant trees in the arid farmland, but they kept dying.

Exhausted, Tony stared down the dirt track and out into the harsh desert. For the first time he noticed the small green leaves sprouting from a nearby tree stump. Tony knew that this tree stump had the potential to flourish. It was a revelation that would eventually transform the lives of millions of people.

Donate now Support programs like FMNR that help farmers regenerate their land, increase food production and improve household income.

Ethiopia’s carbon credit community

Climate change mitigation is one of the greatest benefits of FMNR. Reforestation reduces carbon emissions from the atmosphere. In Humbo, Ethiopia, FMNR is generating significant revenue for community development and household incomes through the sale of carbon credits.

World Vision has helped communities in Humbo to regenerate 2,728 hectares of degraded land through FMNR. World Vision also negotiated a partnership between Humbo communities and the World Bank Clean Development Mechanism. Developed under the Kyoto Protocol, this mechanism allows communities to earn and sell carbon credits for each tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent absorbed by reforested trees.

Following success in Humbo, the Ethiopian Government has committed to reforest 15 million hectares of degraded land using FMNR as part of their climate change and renewable energy plan to become carbon neutral by 2025.

A better future for Humbo


in carbon credits

Humbo communities will earn an expected US$726,000 in the next 10 years alone through carbon credits.

870,000 tonnes

of carbon dioxide

It’s estimated that over 870,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent will be removed from the atmosphere over 30 years in Humbo – a significant contribution to climate change mitigation.

FMNR transformation in Africa

By training farmers in FMNR, World Vision has helped to restore thousands of hectares of forest and improve food production in West Africa and beyond.