Farmer Manage Natural Regeneration (FMNR) is an approach to increase the number of trees by protecting and pruning living tree stumps, and by creating the environmental conditions for tree seeds sprouting. Its goal is to encourage re-growth and revitalise of existing tree stumps, roots and seeds, and allow them to re-sprout, or for seeds to germinate again. One of the advantages of the FMNR is the freedom that farmers have in implementing this technique and adapt it to their landscape. Farmers are free to take decisions based on their knowledge and experience and they are free to choose which tree species they want to use; it can be fruit trees, berry trees, nut trees or medicinal trees. Farmers can also select which species they want to save or remove during pruning. Moreover, farmers have freedom in deciding how and when the pruning will occur, and the tree density they prefer. Regardless of the farmers’ choices, an important prerequisite is that the trees are able to re-sprout after being cut.
The FMNR Hub lists three important steps that have to be taken in order to make this intervention effective. First of all, farmers need to let trees grow. Most of the time, underneath the soil, there are already stumps and seeds available and farmers simply have to create the conditions and allow time to the already available stumps and seeds to grow back into trees. They can achieve this by stopping the burning of stumps, by stopping the harvest of new sprouts of stumps and roots and by avoiding livestock grazing of the sprouts. This allows the underground forest to regenerate, grow and become stronger, and to be able to tolerate the stress caused by grazing.
Second, pruning and thinning of the regrowth has to be planned and operated carefully, according to selection criteria. These two operations are, indeed, important to ensure a healthy growth and a fine shape of the trees. Especially pruning plays a very important role because it allows for rapid growth, and taller and straighter trunks, but it must be based on several strict criteria in order to be successful. Farmers are, first of all, asked to choose which and how many stems to remove and to save, so that the remaining stems have more vital space allowing them to grow faster and better; in addition, the removed stems are suitable for firewood. All the side branches that have appeared in the time between two consecutive prunings, need to be removed in order to not affect selected stems growth. Lastly, whenever the farmer decides to harvest one of the stems, he/she has to make sure to replace it with another new and young one.
The third and last important principle of the FMNR, is individual and community engagement. This is an intrinsic characteristic of the FMNR. The whole community should, together with the farmers, actively participate and contribute to the FMNR.
Whenever possible, FMNR should always be preferred to tree planting, because it guarantees greater survival possibilities, than tree planting, by virtue of the fact that these trees have established naturally and are accustomed to the environmental and soil conditions.
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 1991, Chritchley & Siegert, Water harvesting, http://www.fao.org/3/u3160e/u3160e00.htm. Reproduced with permission
WOCAT, 2012, Schwilch, Hessel & Verzandvoort, Desire for Greener Land, https://edepot.wur.nl/212528. Reproduced with permission.