“My grandparents grew crops without any fertilizer, and had no problems. But with the 20 hectares I inherited, the yield was not enough to even feed my own family”, sighs Ganame Adama. “The forest was gone; the fertile soil was taken away by the waters gushing over the land during the rainy season. A hard crust was everything we were left with. We had to find ways to use that water.”
The people from Ninigui, in Burkina Faso’s north, looked for advise from other farmers who lived through similar challenges. They learned how to build small dams, called ‘diguettes’, ‘digues’ or ‘digues filtrantes’ to break the water flow and block the fertile ground from running off: Using a simple long tube, filled with water, they mark ‘contour lines’ with sticks: areas on their flat plots which are at an equal height. Then they stack rocks, only half a foot high, following those contour lines.
“These dams break the flow of the water as it gushes off the plains. While the rain water slowly seeps through one dam, the soil carried by the water, sinks to the bottom, forming strips of fertile land. The water leaking through one dam is stopped again by the dam on the next contour line, about twenty meters further down the slow slope. And again on the next, and again. Each time, a fertile strip of land forms between the lined-up rocks”, explains Adama. (...)
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