Yacouba Sawadogo, a peasant farmer from northern Burkina Faso in Africa, has succeeded where international agencies failed. Over the last twenty years he has become a pioneer in the fight against desertification and hunger. Yacouba’s struggle is pure, inspiring drama. It is about one man’s determined efforts that have the potential to benefit many thousands living in the Sahel region of Africa.
As early as the 1970’s, the Sahel became a bleak land as a result of severe drought combined with overgrazing, poor land management, and overpopulation. By the 1980’s the region, which once had a population of some 30 million, suffered from severe poverty and starvation. While many abandoned their traditional homelands, Yacouba decided to remain steadfast against the creeping desert.
The Man Who Stopped the Desert tells Yacouba’s story, partly though dramatic reconstruction. As a young man, he fought the accepted wisdom of the traditional land chiefs who opposed his farming techniques. But Yacouba remained undaunted. Through the combination of his vast reforestation project and the adaptation of an ancient agricultural “zai” planting technique, his name is now synonymous with reversing the process of desertification and combating food shortages. Yacouba’s work over a quarter century has resulted in the successful rehabilitation of farmland, the regrowth of forests, and the return of many to their homeland — as well as praise from international organizations eager to learn more about his techniques.