3. Burkina Faso: Innovation overcomes dry conditions (IRIN, IK Notes)

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Farmer Yacouba Sawadogo’s field is also a testing ground. On what used to be barren land, he conducts experiments on soil fertility. Along with other farmers in Burkina Faso’s Yatenga Region, he has discovered a way to turn rock-hard ground into fertile soil.

The Yatenga Region lies in northern Burkina Faso. Dry conditions make farming a challenge. But farmers have overcome this challenge by adapting traditional planting pits, called zaï.

To make a zaï, farmers hack a small pit into dry land. The pit is then filled with manure or compost. This organic fertilizer provides nutrients. It also attracts termites. The termites burrow into the soil, creating channels for water to enter.

The zaï restores fertility and retains water. As a result, millet, sorghum, maize, and cowpea are growing in areas previously considered hopeless.

Mr. Sawadogo and other farmers continue to experiment with this traditional technique. They make different sizes of planting pits and try different crops. They use different sources of organic matter and combinations of organic and chemical fertilizer. They have also spread the word about this solution to dry soil, making it a common practice in Yatenga.

By adapting the traditional technique of zaï, the innovative farmers of Yatenga have rehabilitated their land. To learn more about zaï and how they are used in other African countries, please refer to the following Farm Radio International scripts:.
Rehabilitating degraded land: Planting trees in pits: (Package 68, Script 3, September 2003)
Farmer Phiri uses infiltration pits to combat drought: (Package 64, Script 6, July 2002)
Grow more food in drylands with planting pits:(Package 75, Script 8, June 2005)

Stay tuned for next week’s FRW for an announcement about Farm Radio International’s Radio Scriptwriting Competition on Smallholder Farmer Innovation. The competition is a great way to research and discover the farmer innovations in your area and share them with farmers across Africa.