Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Man Who Stopped the Desert

By Mantoe Phakathi

Yacouba Sawadogo, a peasant farmer from Burkina Faso, is known as the "man who stopped the desert." But when he first tried to save his arid land from desertification by planting the trees that have since grown into a 15-hectare forest, people in his village thought he was mad.


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In the new land plan the government claims ownership of Sawadogo’s forest and fields and divides his father’s grave into two.

Seeing his father’s grave being split to give way for the construction of a house kills him as much as the idea of letting go of his forest does, Sawadogo said.

The only way Sawadogo can retain his land is if he buys it back from government. It is an option that he feels is both unfair and unaffordable.

Sawadogo would need 100,000 Euros to buy back the forest alone.

"This is unjust," he said. "I’ve worked so hard for this and now the government is punishing me."

He has been to the United States where he pled his case to President Barrack Obama and asked him to consider the plight of smallholder farmers in the G8’s Global Food Security Initiative for underdeveloped countries. The initiative was a pledge by the G8 to boost world food security. 

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