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Script 84.10

Notes to broadcasters

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Tinga is a farmer who has just been trained in the construction of a compost ditch. Bila, his cousin who likes to joke around, comes to pay him a visit while he is digging the ditch with a few members of his family. The two farmers from the village of Godin, where soil fertility has become a real concern for the inhabitants, start up a dialogue.

The phenomenon of desertification has been exacerbated by drought during the past three decades. In Sahelian countries, land is considerably degraded and rainfall has decreased. Heat and evaporation are increasingly strong. Indeed, crop yields have noticeably decreased, year after year. Today, to cope with this situation, farmers have developed new techniques. The compost ditch is one of those methods that can help them adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Script

Words and the noise of picks and shovels

Bila:
Good morning! (Joking) Don’t tell me you’re digging your grandfather’s grave? When did he leave you?

Tinga:
(Joking as well) It’s really for your grandmother who’s a real old fogey. This “grave” as you call it, is going to let me nourish my land and have good harvests. Today, an offering of some chicken and dolo beer (Editor’s note: millet beer) isn’t enough for our ancestors to answer our prayers.

Bila:
This looks like a crazy idea. You haven’t even finished feeding your children and you’re busy worrying about the land. Can you tell me how you intend to nourish it?

Tinga:
Which one of the two of us is crazy? Our land is worn out after years of production. It has become poor. The crops are getting smaller from year to year. Access to farm inputs is more and more difficult. It rains less and less. Can’t you see what I see? The land is hungry and thirsty and can’t satisfy our needs. It is grateful to us when it is well-nourished. The land needs as much food as we can give it. Do you understand that? The compost can help the soil to better retain water and help crops to resist the droughts that are increasingly frequent.

Bila:
Yes, I understand that, but I still want an answer to my question.

Noise of picks and shovels in the background

Tinga:
What you think is a grave is actually a compost ditch that I am in the process of building. This ditch is going to provide me with organic fertilizer for the crops in my fields.

Bila:
Tinga, I’ve always blamed you for your selfishness. If I hadn’t come by just now, I wouldn’t know anything about this ditch. Why don’t you like to share what you know with others?

Tinga:
Come on, be serious. I’m talking to you about it now. And I’m very happy to be doing just that. So, to answer your question, I’m going to repeat the instructions we got from the agricultural technician who trained us. There were 25 farmers who received this training, and we are supposed to share what we learned in our villages. I am going to get everyone in the village together in the next little while and teach the technique to those who want to learn it.

Bila:
Go straight to the point. Until now, you have not told me what I expect to hear.

Tinga:
So, to get back to your question. To get nutrients for the soil, you dig a hole like the one you see. It has to be three metres long by three metres wide. It should be no more than one and a half metres deep. In other words, the length and width of the ditch is equal to at least three times the length of a long arm and the depth is about one and a half times the length of an arm.

You put millet stems in the hole to form the first layer. Then you add ash, household waste, and animal dung, and water. You repeat the same process until you fill the ditch. The compost must remain moist but not wet. Don’t put material such as plastic that won’t decompose into the ditch. Keep children away from the ditch to keep them safe.

Bila:
What does this garbage provide for the earth?

Tinga:
This garbage is going to create food for the earth. The millet stems, the household garbage, the animal dung and ash are going to decompose to become nutrients for the soil. This waste material becomes what we call organic compost, and is going to make the soil easy to till. It will allow the soil to recapture the fertility it has lost and to hold lots of water. This way we are going to nourish the earth.

Bila:
So what do I get for doing all this work?

Tinga:
That’s a foolish question.

Bila:
You don’t have to insult me!

Tinga:
(Laughter) How can you ask me what you can expect from all this work after the speech I just made? Prick up your ears and listen to me. You will have organic fertilizer in large quantities – 10 tons of it when the ditch is full – and within easy reach. Your farmlands will be more fertile, plants will flourish, and your field will provide you with large ears of maize and good seeds. You will have products with good taste and quality. Your yields will be improved. The organic fertilizer is going to considerably reduce your dependence on chemical fertilizers. It will save you money that can be used for something else. The compost ditch provides us with priceless advantages. Do you understand that?

Bila:
I would surely be a fool if I said no. In my opinion, it’s a technique which can save us from a situation that is becoming more and more worrisome: the depletion of our soils. And it isn’t complicated. Tell me, when will you start the training sessions in the village? I’ll be one of the first to sign up.

Tinga:
I know you will. May God watch over us!

Bila:
Now that you have explained everything to me, you can get back to digging your grave. I’m on my way.

Tinga:
Say hello to your grandmother, the old bag. Have a good day.

Bicycle horn

Acknowledgements

Contributed by: Adama G. Zongo, Head of Editorial Services, Head Office, Radio Rurale du Burkina.

Reviewed by: John FitzSimons, Associate Professor, School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, University of Guelph, Canada.

Proofreading: Alexis Télesphore Bagre, retired journalist.

Information Sources

  • Toula Dialla, Head of the 50,000 compost ditches project (Ministère de l’agriculture, de l’hydraulique et des ressources halieutiques, Burkina Faso)
  • Serge Alfred Sedogo, Executive Secretary of the MARP/BURKINA Network
  • Bobodo Blaise Sawadogo, Communication on national policies with regard to climate change, January 30, 2008, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.