Yacouba Sawadogo was born in Burkina Faso in West Africa, in the semi-desert region of the Sahel. After working as a retailer, he returned in the early 1980s to Gourga, his village in the Yatenga region, where he decided to stop the desert’s increasing encroachment on his land. To achieve this, he adapted and improved an ancestral form of agriculture known as zaï which involves digging pits in the soil during the pre-season to catch water and concentrate compost. Taking no notice of his fellow inhabitant’s scepticism – they thought he was completely crazy – he persisted with the process and a few years later he had a 15 hectare forest that now acts as a breakwater against the desert’s advance. The inhabitants who had fled from the area have now returned to work their land.

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