Notes to broadcasters
In the Sahel, farmland has been degrading for decades. That degradation has many causes, including the disappearance of vegetation cover, soil erosion caused by runoff water, and violent winds. All these factors contribute to making the land infertile and reducing farm production.
Half of Burkinabé territory is located in the arid Sahel, where there is less than 650 millimetres of rain per year.Since the 1970s, pockets of drought have been common. On average, rainfall is insufficient in one out of four years.
In order to survive, farmers are continuously innovating with ways of restoring the soil and making it more fertile.
In this script, you will discover an innovation called “woody mulch farming.” A farmer has created an ingenious method of using a local plant. Thanks to this method, local farmers are significantly increasing their yields.
This script is based on interviews with farmers in north central Burkina Faso.
You might choose to produce this script on your station, using voice actors to represent the speakers. If so, please make sure to tell your audience at the beginning of the program that the voices are those of actors, not the original people involved in the interviews.
You could also use this script as research material or as inspiration for creating your own programming on growing crops in arid conditions. Talk to farmers and experts who are dealing with these challenges. You might ask them:
What difficulties do you experience with farming in this area?
Have you found solutions to these challenges?
Have you tried mulching or other methods of retaining soil moisture? If so, what was the result?
What do extensionists and other experts say about these challenges?
Estimated running time for the script: 10-12 minutes, with intro and outro music
In the Burkina Sahel, sorghum has always been the main cereal. But harvests have been continually decreasing for the past three decades. This has led to widespread starvation and poverty in rural communities. The old ways of farming no longer fit the new situation—in particular, the practice of burning crop residues, which destroys soil nutrients.
Fortunately, farmers are not giving up. They are constantly innovating in order to find new ways to fertilize the soil. Mulch farming is one of them. The technique involves the ingenious use of a local plant, called bâagandéin the local language or known by its scientific name as Piliostigma reticulatum. They are using this plant as a mulch which fertilizes the soil. Thanks to this method, many farmers have doubled or even tripled their yields. As you must have guessed, today’s show will discuss mulch farming.
Please introduce yourself.
It’s not an imported method, so it’s easy to copy. Farmers just need to be convinced that there’s an alternative to burning vegetation. Theycan use this methodto improve soils. And they can be inspired bythese innovative farmers from Yilou to use local plants to increase soil fertility.
It’s important to note that some shrubs belonging to the same family havesimilar properties toPiliostigma reticulatum, and will also help your soil and your crops. These include Combretum micranthum—called randga in Moore and Combretum glutinosum, called kutumpãgade in Moore.
Dear listeners, today we talked about “mulch farming.”Farmers in central Burkina Faso are covering some parts oftheir fields with branches of a shrub called Piliostigma reticulatum in order to increase soil fertility, which allowsthem to produce more and better crops.
They start mulching their fields as soon as the rainy season is over. You must cover the whole field with branches. If there are not enough branches, you can use sorghum stalks to increase the surface of the field that is covered with vegetation. When you cover the field this way, you protect it from sun, wind, and runoff.
To increase soil fertility, you can also spread organic fertilizer or compost on the field. You can then plant as soon as the first rains start. To get the expected benefits, it is important to repeat the same activities every year. By doing this, your children will have fertile lands, which will enable them to grow the food their families need.
On these words, we conclude today’s show. See you next week to discuss another topic. Goodbye!
Contributed by: Nourou-Dhine Salouka, reporter for Barza Wire in Burkina Faso
Reviewed by:George Félix, Ph.D student at Wageningen University, Netherlands
Harouna Sawadogo, farmer who invented the method, November 26, 2015
Patènèma Sawadogo, farmer who adopted mulch farming, November 26, 2015
Fatim Belem, agricultural technician in Yilou, November 26, 2015
George Félix, Ph.D student at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, working on soil restoration in Burkina Faso, in collaboration with IRD,November 30, 2015