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International Partnerships

A mobile application helps African farmers manage and restore their land

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A new mobile application is bringing farmers in Africa the science of monitoring land restoration. The Regreening Africa App is part of an EU- funded project, which helps farmers, government agents and project officers to collect data on key indicators of land restoration. The data ranges from number and types of trees planted, plant survival rate over time, location of tree nurseries and the tree species they stock, polygons and management practices in farmer-managed natural regeneration (FMNR) sites, training offered to farmer groups,  number of women and youth who have benefited from the project.

The App increases transparency and accountability in the way we implement, monitor and report restoration activities,
- Susan Chomba, Regreening Africa project manager

The App is currently available across eight countries in Africa with a scope for expansion to other countries in the region, including countries within the Great Green Wall initiative that covers a wider geographical scope. The App fills a critical gap by providing evidence on where restoration is happening, especially through tree planting and FMNR, the methods used and who are the beneficiaries. It can help to locate where exotic tree species are replacing indigenous species and allows actors to take the necessary action based on evidence. This level of detail is difficult to attain through other methods such as remote sensing.

App users have access to their data and various analytical outputs through a user-friendly online data-reporting system.

“The beauty about this App is its simplicity. I have used it to record trees on many farms and have been fascinated to see what the data looks like once it is processed,” Mohamed Dicko, project officer, Oxfam Mali.

Regreening Africa App users
A field enumerator collecting data using the App in Rwanda
A field enumerator from Bugesera District in Rwanda collecting data using the App. Photo: World Vision Rwanda/ Alex Mugayi

Most countries in Africa have numerous restoration initiatives already started. But monitoring and reporting remains a major challenge at project and even national level.

“We co-designed this simple but effective App with our partners to enable stakeholders who are implementing land restoration activities on the ground to track their interventions, providing real-time monitoring of restoration activities and bringing science-based evidence into the hands of practitioners and fields of farmers,” notes Tor Vagen, the head of the Spatial Data Science and Applied Learning Lab at World Agroforestry, ICRAF.

Data collected through the App is freely and instantly available to the data collectors and various outputs from the synthesis of the data, including information on critical land health indicators, is then shared with the public through the Regreening Africa Dashboard.

Project managers find the app useful to report their achievements while also providing their teams with an incentive to increase the areas being restored, which they can then proudly present to external audience.

“I tell the enumerators that the only way we can show our good work is to use the Regreening App,” remarked Anna Daba Ndiaye of World Vision Senegal.

“By having users such as lead farmers and extension agents collect data on their land restoration activities, they become an integral part of efforts to scale the assessment and monitoring of impacts of land restoration across a wide range of landscapes. Also, by aggregating and synthesizing this information and combining it with evidence from systematic science-based assessments of land health, we can dramatically improve our understanding of what interventions work best where and for whom” says Vagen.

The Geo Science team (ICRAF) taking project staff from World Vision Kenya through the App interface to review data collected so far
The Geo Science team (ICRAF) taking project staff from World Vision Kenya through the App interface to review data collected so far. Photo: World Agroforestry/May Muthuri

The App has the potential to be translated into different African local languages, beyond the current English and French versions, to enable an even greater reach of local communities. The development team is continuously getting feedback from field staff and farmers and looking for ways to improve and scale it. 

About the project

Regreening Africa is a five-year project funded by the European Union. The project seeks to restore one million hectares of land and benefit 500,000 households across eight countries, including those covered by the Great Green Wall such as Mali, Niger, Ghana, Senegal, Ethiopia and Somalia. Other countries include Kenya and Rwanda. By incorporating trees into croplands, communal lands and pastoral areas, regreening efforts make it possible to reclaim Africa’s degraded landscapes.

Regreening Africa is implemented by a consortium of partners comprised of World Agroforestry (ICRAF), World Vision, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), CARE, Oxfam and Sahel Eco. But most important, the project builds on the knowledge, experience and commitment of hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers in Africa who are keen to turn the deserts and degraded lands into thriving landscapes.

The project directly contributes to the goals of the Great Green Wall initiative and the AFR100 commitments. Its success, and that of other similar initiatives in the region, implies that the ambition of the Great Green Wall is gradually becoming a reality.