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September 4th, 2018 / The Guardian, UK

From the peanut basin of Senegal to the Seno plains of Mali, to Yatenga, formerly the most degraded region of Burkina Faso, and as far south as Malawi: gaos are thriving in Africa. And over the past three decades, the landscape of southern Niger has been transformed by more than 200m new trees, many of them gaos. They have not been planted but have grown naturally on over 5m hectares of farmland, nurtured by thousands of farmers.

Shielded from the sun, crops planted under the canopy of a tree usually do not do well in the short term, although there can be longer-term benefits. That’s one reason why many west African rainforests have been decimated. But with gaos, it’s the other way round. The root system of the gao is nearly as big as its branches, and unusually it draws nitrogen from the air, fertilising the soil. And unlike other trees in the area, gao tree leaves fall in the rainy season, allowing more sunlight through to the crops at a key moment. Read more