African farmer’s use of old farming techniques to ward off desertification bags him an award

Photo: Reuters

Yacouba Sawadogo, a Burkina Faso farmer, has been awarded Sweden’s alternative Nobel prize for bringing back an old farming technique to fight desertification. He shared the award with three Saudi human rights activists and an Australian agronomist.

The $341,800 prize is for people who have come up with solutions to global problems, according to the World Economic Forum.

Sawadogo makes barren land fertile by digging ‘zai’ — pits in hardened soil that store water and nutrients for crops and enables them to withstand droughts.

The technique has helped reduce hunger in Burkina Faso and Niger by saving thousands of hectares of barren land. He began teaching this method in the 1980s.

“My wish is for people to take my knowledge and share it. This can benefit the youth of the country,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The country lies in a semi-arid zone where it is becoming difficult to farm due to climate change and land overuse.

Almost a million people experienced hunger across the country due to inconsistent rains last year. Initially, Sawadogo faced resistance for bringing back an outdated practice but now NGOs are using it to save people from hunger.

The movie The Man Who Stropped the Desert, made in 2010, is Sawadogo’s story of how he revived the barren land.



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