Eden Foundation

Eden Foundation

Founded 1985 in Sweden
Active in Tanout, Niger, since 1987

Some residents and visitors at the field station

There have been some interesting changes at the field station since Eden started to work there in 1988. At that time there were few trees and bushes, and much of the area looked barren. Many bushes which previously had been chopped down to ground level, are now over 3m tall, and numerous perennial herbs have either germinated or sprung up from old root systems. There are also around 1000 plants direct seeded by Eden. These plants are providing an improved environment for local fauna.

Several species of wild animals and birds are either frequently visiting the field station or living in the area. Some animals that live in tunnels during the day emerge at night to hunt for food. The Desert Fox for example, makes tunnels 1.5m deep and 2m long. The Monitor Lizard also digs deep tunnels, but this lizard is active during the day. It is much larger than most lizards, measuring 80cm long. There are Desert Hedgehogs, Egyptian Cats (which look similar to European domestic cats), different types of snakes and also toads at the field station.

Other lodgers and visitors at the field station make their homes above the ground. Most of these are birds such as the Ethiopian Roller. This magnificent bird flashes past to catch large insects. Its plumage is turquoise, bright blue and brown.

It is clear that the field station has become a conservation area for wild animals and birds. By fencing the area, trees, bushes and herbs can grow normally. These plants together with those direct seeded by Eden are providing the following benefits for the wild animals:

a) Food at all seasons: Fruits, seeds and leaves of different species become food for small mammals and insects which in turn become food for larger wild animals.

b) Shelter from predators: Dense thorn bushes in particular provide places for wild animals to hide if they are threatened by other animals. This is especially useful for the young which are more vulnerable to attack.

c) Living space undisturbed by livestock: Goats, sheep and cattle not only trample on the homes of these wild animals but also strip almost all the vegetation on which they depend.

These animals in turn:

a) Help control the populations of rodents and insects that can destroy seeds and seedlings. The Monitor Lizard, Desert Fox and African Eagle Owl eat locusts, desert mice and rats which can become very destructive if allowed to proliferate.

b) Provide natural fertiliser that enriches the soil especially in nitrogen and organic matter which are often lacking in soils of hot arid zones.

Environmental degradation caused by overexploitation of the land through monoculture of millet and sorghum, overgrazing by livestock and excess firewood collection not only threatens the livelihood of people living in the area but is also threatening some wild animals with extinction. Eden's solution of intercropping annuals with the edible perennials would help to restore a better ecological harmony where there would be sufficient variety of wild animals to help check the populations of mice, rat and locust.

Read Eden's latest article:
Empowering Teenage Girls in Africa