More trees for more water in drylands: myths and opportunities

September 2020

by Douglas Sheil & Aida Bargués Tobella


The restoration of tree cover influences water availability. Many people — some experts, too — believe incorrectly that greater tree cover has an invariably negative impact on local water availability. Where do these beliefs come from? Here we summarise the origin of these misconceptions and illustrate how tree cover can improve water availability. We have recognised the extent of these opportunities only recently, and considerable work remains, but we know enough to dismiss some myths and to highlight major opportunities to improve water security in Africa by restoring degraded landscapes with trees.

This article was submitted for inclusion in the forthcoming edition of ETFRN News 60 - Restoring African drylands, due for release in December 2020, containing 25 articles plus interviews and boxes describing farmer-led, NGO, private sector, government and international initiatives. These highlight the roles of varied policies and stakeholder interests, and identify opportunities to encourage smallholder and community participation in scaling out successes and meeting national, regional and global commitments.