The Sahel is a region where poverty and vulnerable agro-eco systems are converging into extremely challenging conditions for development opportunities. However, in the last 15 years, patchy island of re-greening have occurred, indicating that vegetation have been increased despite the challenging rainfall variability, poor and infertile soils and exponential population growth.

Although some of the re-greening can be explained by increased seasonal rainfall, emerging cases suggest a more complex active human management of the landscape. Thus, there are indications that wise management of landscape resources can generate and increase landscape productivity, incl. ecosystem services, even under these challenging biophysical conditions.

This inter-disciplinary research project will study different dimensions comparing the ‘re-greened’ with ‘conventional’ areas of agro-eco systems, looking into both social and biophysical aspects. We ask what constitutes a ‘re-greened’ area? What are the ecosystems that can be restored and enhanced in re-greened versus ‘conventional areas? How much does the generation of ecosystem services differ in quality and quantity? How can re-greening happen, and does it need external push to be achieved? And how can this knowledge of systems change help alleviate poverty and possibly adapt to a highly uncertain future in current non-greened areas?

The project will have a 1-year partnership and piloting phase which aims to:

  • Establish links and strengthen the partnership.
  • Coordinate 2 UK/developed country, and 2 developing country MSc (or equivalent) student field research projects.
  • Develop joint research papers.
  • Develop a joint proposal for further research Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) imitative of NERC/ESRC//DfID (

Partners in research:

  • University of York, Environment Department, UK (PI: Dr Colin McClean).
  • Stockholm Environment Institute, based at University of York, UK (Dr Jennie Barron, Steve Cinderby).
  • Centre Régional de l’Enseignement Spécialisé en Agriculture (CRESA, University of Abdou Moumouni, Niger (Dr Adamou Moustapha).
  • Institut de l’Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), Burkina Faso (Dr Korodjouma Ouattara).

Un-funded partners:

  • Institut national de recherche agronomique du Niger, Niger (INRAN).
  • University of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.
  • Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden: Through a matching funds for a twinned project “Human dimensions behind the greening in Sahel: A comparative study of social-ecological dynamics in greened and non-greened communities in Niger”, led by, an additional 11 MSc students were coordinated. Funded by SIDA 2009/2010.
  • Africa Forest Forum.
  • VrijeUniversity ofAmsterdam, Netherlands.
  • Local administration and extension in study areas of Myrriah and Mayai.
  • Farmers and village community members in study areas.


  • Inception meeting Niamey 9-13 March 2009.
  • Field work of MSc students July-Oct  2009, Myrriah and Mayai.
  • Field planning meeting Ouagadougou 6-10 July 2009.
  • Participatory GIS Training Ouagadougou August.
  • Workshop: student de-briefing and extraction research Niamey 4-6 November 2009.

Results and outcomes are still in preparation.

T Dowson: Biomass Production in villages recovering from drought in the Nigerien Sahel (MSc thesis 2009 Environment Department, University of York). Download the PDF below.

L Runsten: Inventory of ecosystem services and their role in farmer livelihoods for villages with different levels of re-greening, SE Niger (MSc in prep. Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, co-supervised and co-funded by this grant)

M Savadogo : Influences des facteurs démographique et socio-culturel sur la dégradation des terres dans le département de Mayahi au Niger. (M Sc in prep, UFR/SVT, Universite de Ouagadougou).

A Bagna: Etude géomorphologique et impacts de végétation sur le ruissellement dans les zones verdies et non reverdies du Sahel dans le département de Mirriah. (M Sc thesis 2010, Faculte d’agronomie, University of Abdou Moumouni).

Cook, N. (forthcoming MSc thesis 2010 Environment Department, University of York.

Barron, J., Enfors, E., Cambridge, H., Adamou, M. (accepted). Coping with rainfall variability:- Dryspell mitigation and implication on landscape water balances in smallscale farming systems in semi-arid Niger. International Journal of Water Resource Development.

Funder: Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) imitative of NERC/ESRC//DfID.