Notes to broadcasters
Burkina Faso is a country in the heart of West Africa. Desertification, or progressive drying of the land, has grown worse in the country over the last four decades because of drought. Water and wind erosion and the impact of human activities such as farming have significantly degraded soils. Scarce and irregular rainfall also makes farming difficult, and climate change further complicates farmers’ lives.
But farmers in the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso are having success tackling this situation with traditional techniques such as zai, demi-lunes and stone lines. Indeed, much land that was damaged is now suitable for farming and farmers are receiving better yields.
In this script, we meet with local farmers and an agricultural expert who share their experiences in restoring degraded land.
This script is based on real interviews.
You could air this script on your station, using actors to represent the characters. If so, make sure to inform your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, and not the people involved in the original interviews.
You could also use this script as inspiration to research and develop a radio program on ways to revive damaged soils and degraded lands in your own area.
If you choose to use this script as inspiration for creating your own program, you could talk to farmers and other experts, and ask the following questions:
- If there are damaged lands in your area, how were the lands and soils damaged?
- What solutions have farmers found for reviving these soils?
- What are the challenges or barriers to adopting these solutions? Have farmers found solutions to these challenges or barriers?
Apart from speaking directly to farmers and other key players in the local agriculture sector, you could use these questions as the basis for a phone-in or text-in program.
Estimated running time for this script is 15 minutes, including intro and outro.
But in this village, farmers have successfully restored the degraded lands with traditional techniques such as zai, demi-lunes and stone lines. Hamidou Ouédraogo is the chairman of the union of village associations. He explains.
As a result, our soils are highly degraded and there are holes everywhere and huge empty spaces, with a significant reduction in cropland.
We needed to feed our families, our children, our wives and our livestock. How could we do this when our lands were dry and the rains were diminishing – and we couldn’t even predict how long the rains would last? We had to find farming techniques to handle the situation. This is how we came to adopt zai, demi-lunes and stone lines. These methods have provided us with some good results, and we can now get the crop yields to support our families.
Ousséni Zoromé lives in Ouahigouya, about 200 kilometres north of Ouagadougou. Some time ago, he returned to his village after some years in Côte d’Ivoire. He noticed that his family’s farmland had become dry, hard, and damaged. So he used zai on this land and he was successful. Indeed, he got good crops on land that seemed unsuitable for farming. He is the one who taught us zai techniques in 1989.
10 second musical bridge
Farmers arrange zai holes in staggered lines along the contour line of a hill. They leave 40 to 100 centimetres between each zai hole in a line, and 80 centimetres between lines. Zai holes slow down surface water runoff and help the soil hold the maximum amount of water.
Farmers fill each zai hole with two or three handfuls of manure once every two years. They plant seeds in the zai holes when the soil is well-soaked after the first rains. Seeds are sown inside, around the edges of the zai hole, but not in the middle of the zai hole. Farmers hoe inside the zai hole. The crop yield can reach 750 to 800 kilograms per hectare.
Now let’s learn about demi-lunes, another technique which improves soil fertility.
Five seconds of music
How do you build demi-lunes? Let’s hear from the extension agent again.
You dig out the soil from the demi-lune to a depth of 20 to 40 centimetres, and create a ridge or bund at the edge. Then you add some manure to fertilize the soil. Demi-lunes are dug across the slope in staggered rows. In other words, you build four demi-lunes in each corner of a square and a fifth in the middle of the square.
The earth bund downslope of each demi-lune must be tamped down. This helps the demi-lune better resist runoff. The earth bund downslope of the demi-lune should be 30 to 60 centimetres wide. You can reinforce the bunds by placing stones or perennial grass seedlings such as bluestem on with a line of stones or with perennial grass seedlings such as bluestem. This helps the earth bunds better resist water runoff. (Editor’s note: The scientific name for bluestem is Andropogon gayanus. It is also known by the common names gama grass, onga and Rhodesian blue grass).
When a demi-lune is filled with runoff water, any excess water goes around the sides of the earth bund and is captured by the next demi-lune downslope. But the earth bund prevents the manure from being washed away by runoff water.
If you dig demi-lunes at the bottom of a slope, and they receive so much water that it destroys the structure, you should build a protection ditch 40 centimetres wide and 30 centimetres deep at the top of the slope above the lines of demi-lunes.
First, you mark out contour lines across the slope of the hill, using a water level and a triangle. You insert a stick every three or four metres across the contour line to guide you in creating a furrow. Second, you create the furrow 10 to 20 centimetres deep and 15 to 20 centimetres wide along the contour line, where you will place the stones. The stones must be aligned so they act as a barrier to slow the water running downhill. The space between stone lines is 30 to 45 metres. In other words, you build a stone line every 30 to 45 metres down the slope of a hill.
As for women, zai has put an end to disputes they used to have with their husbands at home. According to Rihanata Sinaré, women now have enough land to grow groundnuts and ground peas.
Nevertheless, these techniques are effective only if there is enough rainfall. They do not work well in extreme droughts.
We will end the discussion here. I thank you for listening to us. After hearing the farmers’ satisfaction, we will end on this happy note. Goodbye and I will meet you on the next program.
Contributed by: G. Adama Zongo, journalist
Revised by: John FitzSimons, Associate Professor, Department of Rural Planning and Development, University of Guelph, Canada
Interviews carried out on January 13, 2015 with:
Members of Union Namanegbzanga des groupements villageois de Tanlili (UNGV-T): farmers Kalifa Congo, Sibdou Ouédraogo, Rihanata Sinaré, Souleymane Congo, Amado Ouédraogo, and Assèta Sawadogo
Oumar Ouédraogo, water, soil conservation and agroforestry technician, Conservation des eaux et des sols, et agroforesterie (CESAF), Fédération nationale des groupements naam (FNGN), in Ouahigouya.
Thank you to:
Issouf Sanou, Program manager, FENOP (Fédération nationale des organisations paysannes du Burkina)
Hamidou Ouédraogo, Chairman of the Union Namanegbzanga des groupements villageois de Tanlili (UNGV-T)
Project undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD)
This script was written with the support of Irish Aid.