Climate Change

This farmer is using an ancient technique to reverse desertification

A lone tree can be seen in a drought-affected paddock on farmer Scott Cooper's property named 'Nundah' located on the outskirts of the central New South Wales town of Gunnedah in Australia, July 21, 2018. Picture taken July 21, 2018.    REUTERS/David Gray - RC1798DB63E0

Last year, erratic rains left nearly a million people in need of food aid across Burkina Faso. Image: REUTERS/David Gray

Nellie Peyton
Journalist, Reuters Foundation
Share:
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Climate Change?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Climate Change is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Climate Change

A farmer from Burkina Faso who popularized an ancient farming technique to reverse desertification is among the winners of Sweden's "alternative Nobel prize", announced on Monday.

Yacouba Sawadogo shared this year's award with three Saudi human rights activists and an Australian agronomist. The 3 million Swedish crown ($341,800) prize honours people who find solutions to global problems.

Yacouba Sawadogo was the subject of a 2010 documentary called 'The Man Who Stopped the Desert'. Image: Right Livelihood Award/Mark Dodd

Sawadogo is known for turning barren land into forest using "zai" - pits dug in hardened soil that concentrate water and nutrients, allowing crops to withstand drought.

The technique has been used to restore thousands of hectares of dry land and in doing so reduce hunger in Burkina Faso and Niger since he began to teach it in the 1980s, according to the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

Sawadogo said he hoped he would be able to "use the award for the future".

"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 by phone from his village in Burkina Faso.

The country dips into a semi-arid zone below the Sahara desert known as the Sahel, where climate change and land overuse are making it increasingly difficult to farm, experts say.

"Yacouba Sawadogo vowed to stop the desert – and he made it," said Ole von Uexkull, executive director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

"If local communities and international experts are ready to learn from his wisdom, it will be possible to regenerate large areas of degraded land, decrease forced migration and build peace in the Sahel."

Last year, erratic rains left nearly a million people in need of food aid across the country.

Sawadogo initially faced resistance for his unconventional technique, based on an ancient method that had fallen out of practice. Now "zai" have been adopted by aid agencies working to prevent hunger in the region.

Sawadogo told his story in a 2010 film called "The Man Who Stopped the Desert".

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Climate ChangeAgriculture, Food and Beverage
Share:
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

From São Paulo to Venice: 15 cities with ambitious zero-carbon projects

Victoria Masterson

April 12, 2024

About Us

Events

Media

Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum