Sunday, March 14, 2010

It’s possible to reverse climate change in Africa

Luc Gnacadja in the East African (Kenya): A small environmental revolution is taking place among peasant farmers and villagers in West Africa, a region once devastated by drought and systematic land degradation, and it is peasants like Yacouba Sawadogo and Sakina Mati leading it. Sawadogo, an illiterate peasant farmer in Burkina Faso, has become a celebrity in his village.

He traverses the world’s capitals in his open Sahelian sandals to share his expertise with policy-makers. Undaunted by neighbours who were burning his crop and calling him a madman, this man “single-handedly has had more impact on conservation than all the national and international researchers put together,” claims geographer and natural resource management specialist, Dr Chris Reij of the Netherlands, who has followed Sawadogo’s agricultural innovation for over 25 years.

Building on a soil nurturing technique known as Zaï handed down from his ancestors, Sawadogo has enabled his village to reclaim the biological and economic productivity of their land, and in the semi-arid Sahel region. In the language of experts, they have figured out a way to beat land degradation in the drylands, a process referred to, in such regions, as desertification.

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), the technique has also been used to plant trees in the region and in other villages in Niger. The results are astounding. Up to 1.5 million people have benefited and 5.2 to 5.3 million hectares of land made suitable for cultivation; an area almost equal to Togo’s territory.

Sawadogo’s story captures the essence of the environment ministers’ message to the African Community last week at their two-day gathering on Wednesday and Thursday, 3-4 March, at the East African Community headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania.

…The decision by the ministers to focus on climate change is a bold move for not only is the scientific basis of climate change now under serious attack, but sceptics also claim that climate change has become the scapegoat of any and all of the world’s environmental problems, especially in Africa….

The dunes on the outskirts or Oursi, Oursi Department, Burkina Faso. In the distance is Oursi town, Oursi lake, with hills in the distance. Shot by C. Hugues, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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