Tree Owners are Tree Huggers

The big story in Niger is not uranium but trees.  According to an interesting article in the NYTimes:

Recent studies of vegetation patterns, based on detailed satellite
images and on-the-ground inventories of trees, have found that Niger, a
place of persistent hunger and deprivation, has recently added millions
of new trees and is now far greener than it was 30 years ago.

These
gains, moreover, have come at a time when the population of Niger has
exploded, confounding the conventional wisdom that population growth
leads to the loss of trees and accelerates land degradation, scientists
studying Niger say.

And the key to this growth?   Property rights.

Another change was the way trees were regarded by law. From colonial
times, all trees in Niger had been regarded as the property of the
state, which gave farmers little incentive to protect them. Trees were
chopped for firewood or construction without regard to the
environmental costs. Government foresters were supposed to make sure
the trees were properly managed, but there were not enough of them to
police a country nearly twice the size of Texas.

But over time,
farmers began to regard the trees in their fields as their property,
and in recent years the government has recognized the benefits of that
outlook by allowing individuals to own trees. Farmers make money from
the trees by selling branches, pods, fruit and bark. Because those
sales are more lucrative over time than simply chopping down the tree
for firewood, the farmers preserve them.