Deforestation to Reforestation: An Agronomist Helping the Planet - 96five Family Radio

Deforestation to Reforestation: An Agronomist Helping the Planet

Agronomist Tony Rinaudo discovered the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration System in the 80s, assisting farmers in developing countries.

By Micaela AboodyMonday 22 Aug 2022Sunday CelebrationEnvironmentReading Time: 4 minutes

Always having a passion for the environment since a child, World Vision Australia’s senior action advisor Tony Rinaudo discovered an environmental regeneration system saving developing countries from poverty and starvation.

The Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration system (FMNR) was developed in the early 1980s, pioneered by Mr Rinaudo in Niger during the 1983 famine – it has been used worldwide ever since.

Satellite images-Niger-Gray Tappan, US Geological Survey_BeforeAfter_1975vs2003

Source: Supplied / Satellite images, before and after, Niger

Mr Rinaudo grew up in Myrtleford, Victoria among bushland and rivers which was unfortunately being destroyed by toxic sprays that would go into the rivers killing the marine life.

“As a child I didn’t really understand the ecology but this really upset me,” Mr Rinaudo told 96five’s Alex Milne.

His mother had a very strong faith which shaped his life teaching him that there is more to life than financial stability.

“We have to look after those less fortunate than ourselves, we have a duty of care for God’s creation,” he said.

“We have to look after those less fortunate than ourselves, we have a duty of care for God’s creation,” – Tony Rinaudo, World Vision Australia

Mr Rinaudo completed his studies in Armadale, 600km away from home, where he met his now wife, and being so far away from family, he read God’s word more regularly.

“There’s this reading from Matthew 7:7 that I kept coming back to: ‘ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.’,” he said.

“I asked ‘if God’s Word is all powerful then why am I struggling?’ And if it’s true that he answers prayer I will go wherever he calls me and if it’s not true I can’t call myself a Christian. Then this deep peace came over me and I realised God does answer prayer and he is with me.”

While at university, Mr Rinaudo and his wife corresponded with missionaries and joined an organisation that sent them to the Niger Republic.

They were confronted by a dry landscape of no trees, no wildlife and barely any water in the remaining springs.

“It was at the point of ecological collapse and [the land] wasn’t able to support life on earth, every year life was a struggle for the people there,” he said.

“It was at the point of ecological collapse and [the land] wasn’t able to support life on earth, every year life was a struggle for the people there,” – Tony Rinaudo, World Vision Australia

Mr Rinaudo concluded deforestation was the cause of the problem and tried everything from consulting experts and experimenting by planting trees in the landscape.

“My work was a failure. I could have easily given up. The farmers used to call me the crazy white farmer,” he said.

One day he decided to pray for forgiveness for the destruction of God’s creation and it was on that day he noticed a bush and looking at the leaves – which are like a trees signature – he realised it was the re-growth of a tree stump.

“At that moment everything changed. I wasn’t fighting the Sahara Desert, I didn’t need a miracle, I didn’t need millions of dollars. Everything that I needed was literally at my feet,” Mr Rinaudo said.

MOUSLIM-World Vision

Luhundwa Tanzania 2019-2022 LEAD Foundation 2

Source: Supplied / Luhundwa Tanzania 2019-2022

This became the discovery of the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration System (FMNR), farmers needed to care for the trees instead of cutting them down.

This became the discovery of the Farmer Managed Natural Regeneration System (FMNR), farmers needed to care for the trees instead of cutting them down.

Over several years, and through many ups and downs, the practice was adopted over five million hectares with over 200 million trees being regenerated and scattered across the farm lands.

This has resulted in the gross income for Nigerian farmers increasing by $1000 per annum every year and they can grow an additional 500,000 tonnes of grain with no irrigation or improved seed.

“This is merely by working with nature instead of fighting against it,” Mr Rinaudo said.

Farmers in Niger have been able to sell fuels, wood, timber, honey, fodder and the trees themselves eradicating poverty, famine and disease.

“It’s had incredible impacts. Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and if they can do that then I think it’s a lesson to the rest of us,” Mr Rinaudo said.

“It’s had incredible impacts. Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world and if they can do that then I think it’s a lesson to the rest of us,” – Tony Rinaudo, World Vision Australia

Tony Rinaudo’s book The Forest Underground: Hope for a Planet in Crisis, is out now.