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Meet Yacouba Sawadogo – The Man Who Stopped the Desert

10:56 AM

Yacouba sawadogo was an extraordinary man - he single- handedly managed to resolve a crisis that even scientists and development organizations can not . Re- forestation and land approach with caution the simple old farmer was so effective they helped turn the tide in the fight against the ruthless land desertification in northern Burkina Faso .

Over - farming , over - grazing and over population has , in recent years , which resulted in serious soil erosion and drying in this landlocked West African country . Although national and international researchers tried to fix the grave situation , it really does not really make much of a difference . Yacouba decided to take the matter into his own hands in 1980 .

Yacouba 's technique is so strange that his fellow farmers ridiculed him . But if his approach to successfully regenerated forest , they were forced to sit up and take notice . Yacouba revived an ancient African farming practice called ' zai ' , which led to increased forest growth and soil quality .

Zai is a very simple and low-cost farming techniques . Using a shovel or an ax , small holes were dug in the poor soil and filled with compost . Seeds of trees , millet or sorghum is planted in compost . The holes to catch water during the rainy season , so they are able to retain moisture and nutrients during the dry season .

According to the rules of Zai , Yacouba would prepare the land in the dry season - exactly opposite the local practices . Other farmers and land chiefs laughed at him , but soon realized that he was a genius . In just 20 years , he converted a completely barren area into a thriving 30 - acre forest with over 60 species of trees .

By Chris Reji , a specialist natural resources management with the Center for International Cooperation , " tens of thousands of hectares of land that was completely unproductive productivity is made ​​again thanks to the strategy of Yacouba . "

Yacouba chose not to keep his secrets to himself . Instead , he hosts a workshop on his farm , educating visitors and bringing people together in a spirit of friendship . " I like the training program to become the starting point for many fruitful exchanges throughout the region , " he said . Farmers from neighboring villages visit him for advice and good quality seeds . " If you stay in your own little corner , all your knowledge is of no use to mankind . "

In 2010 , created the award - winning Filmmaker Mark Dodd documentary based on the experiences of Yacouba , called ' The Man Who Stopped the Desert ' . It tells the story of how saved the effort of a single person thousands of farmers across Africa Sahel region - one of the worst hit by desertification in the world . Film helps combat the notion that Africa needs outside help to resolve its problems . " We must stop teaching and telling , and instead start learning and listening to what farmers have to say , " said Reji .

The film helped raise awareness about the work Yacouba and also resulted in more donations . With the support of Oxfam America , she is now promoting the use of stone bunds to slow runoff , so water from the pits falls to the ground . It has proven to be a very successful technique .

" What Yacouba has done can also be done by many other farmers across the Sahel . A major challenge is that in the next 5-10 years , we will have to try to motivate millions of farmers to invest in trees because it will help them to improve their food security , and at the same time it will also help them adapt to climate change , " said Reji .

But making this happen is not as easy as it sounds. Despite the success of the documentary film , Yacouba was facing problems from several quarters . A recent expansion project has taken up a large part of the forest he spent years growing . Homes are being built standalone in its soil , with little compensations .

Despite these setbacks , Yacouba has not lost hope . She is currently trying to raise $ 20,000 to buy back its forests . He knows that his work is important - he has doubled his efforts in cultivation , expanding barren land nearby .

Understanding the future of the environment and conservation Yacouba is deep . " If you cut down ten trees a day and fail to plant at least one a year , we are headed for destruction , " he said .
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