The Man Who Stopped the Desert
This is a traditional agricultural practice that is particularly useful in poor infertile soils. Small pits measuring 20–30cm across and 10–20cm deep are dug. Two handfuls of crop waste or animal manure are placed in the pit and covered with a little soil. When the rains begin sorghum or millet seeds are sown in the pits. These pits are useful because precious rainwater collects in them and they make the most effective use of small quantities of organic waste and manure.
Animal manure gives better results than crop wastes as it is a more concentrated fertiliser. Composting crop wastes before use improves fertility, but takes more time. It can be hard work to dig the zai pits but it can be done during the dry season when there is less other work. This simple technique is providing farmers with increased crop yields in Burkina Faso.
Adapting farming practices in Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso is an inland country in West Africa. The north of the country experiences a hot dry climate while the south receives more rain. Rainfall is irregular and for 30 years Burkina Faso has had very poor rains with three particularly severe droughts (1973–1974, 1983–1984 and 2000–2001).
Following are some of the most well used techniques and ideas.
Sowing in dry ground
In order to avoid wasting a single drop of the very first rains, seeds are sown in dry ground just before the rains begin. This means that even the lightest rainfall is used for crops to begin growing.
Many farmers in the south of the country have begun using fast-growing varieties of millet, maize, sorghum and rice (normally only used in the dry north), even though they know these give lower yields.
Government research centres have produced improved seed varieties that have become popular with NGOs and farmers. These seeds are now widely accepted and appreciated by farmers.
Farmers are very aware of the benefits of using animal power in farming to make sure land is ploughed and seeds sown as soon as the rains begin. The only problem is access to the animals and ploughs, which is beyond the reach of many farmers. CREDO helps by distributing ploughs.