“My grandparents grew crops without any fertilizer, and had no problems. But with the 20 hectares I inherited, the yield was not enough to even feed my own family”, sighs Ganame Adama. “The forest was gone; the fertile soil was taken away by the waters gushing over the land during the rainy season. A hard crust was everything we were left with. We had to find ways to use that water.”
The people from Ninigui, in Burkina Faso’s north, looked for advise from other farmers who lived through similar challenges. They learned how to build small dams, called ‘diguettes’, ‘digues’ or ‘digues filtrantes’ to break the water flow and block the fertile ground from running off: Using a simple long tube, filled with water, they mark ‘contour lines’ with sticks: areas on their flat plots which are at an equal height. Then they stack rocks, only half a foot high, following those contour lines. Read more »
A village in Northern Burkina Faso fights the odds, and turns the tide
In the north of Burkina Faso, about one hour’s drive from Ouahigouya, the trees change into low scrubby bushes, the grass turns yellow, and as we drive on, it eventually disappears. The dirt track dissolves into a rocky river bedding, climbs up a steep ridge and levels on a plateau. We stop for second, and take in the scenery.
The landscape is barren. The soil is a dark brown crusted gravel, often bereaved of any vegetation. Houses are grouped together, with the mosques and low mud grain stores sticking out. Here and there a group of kids walks to the school at the edge of the village. A large troop of cows, herded by two nomads, kicks up a cloud of dust.
Ninigui feels like a border town. A village on the edge of the desert and on the edge of survival.
Ganame Adama, who heads NAAM, the local farmers’ union, takes us to his field where he just harvested his millet crop. “Look around you”, he says, “All of this used to be forest. At the time of my father’s father, they hunted wild animals here. They grew a crop without using any fertilizer. They had crops every year without much effort.”
As the forest was cut for firewood, gradually the rains carried away the thin top soil. To make matters worse, the rainy season shifted: it started later, lasted shorter, and came in repeated violent squalls, often causing flooding as the barren ground was no longer able to absorb the rain. “Rains just gushed over the ground”, Adama explains, “In the hills, it dug out ravines, emptying into the flats. The water would just carry away whatever we had sown. It was no use to apply fertilizer neither. Each time it rained, everything was carried away.” Read more »
CCAFS Coordinating Unit - University of Copenhagen, Faculty of Science, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, Rolighedsvej 21, DK-1958 Frederiksberg C, Denmark, phone +45 35331046; Email ccafs [at] cgiar [dot] org, EAN 5790000279012
Lead Center - International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)