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The Man Who Stopped the Desert; Wangari Maathai.

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The Man Who Stopped the Desert; Wangari Maathai.
From Wangaari Maathai’s Billion Tree campaign to lush permaculture landscapes in Jordan, we’ve seen how individuals and communities can reverse desertification and bring life back to arid soils. Now a new dramatized documentary brings us the story of Yacouba Sawadogo, an illiterate African farmer whose pioneering techniques have, according to one expert, done more for soil conservation in the Sahel region of Africa than all of the national and international soil experts combined. It’s amazing stuff.
Using, and then enhancing, traditional “zai” techniques for restoring degraded land, which involve planting seeds directly into pits that have been enhanced with small handfuls of composted dung, Yacouba Sawadogo has spent over a quarter century experimenting with his soils, and then teaching his fellow farmers, resulting in the successful rehabilitation of farmland, the regrowth of forests, and attention from international media and non-profit organizations who wanted to learn more about Sawadogo’s techniques.
Now a new documentary, that includes a dramatization of Sawadogo’s life, and the struggles he has faced in gaining acceptance for his approach, is set to bring his story to a broader audience. The movie traces Sawadogo’s story from his early education, through his days researching and developing his farming techniques, to his recent journey to the USA to participate in an Oxfam panel on greening the Sahel

Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai launched a campaign at the United Nations’ Climate Change conference in Nairobi to plant a billion trees next year. That’s 32 every second—to highlight the need to fight global warming. Professor Maathai won the Nobel prize in 2004 for her involvement with the Greenbelt Movement, which she founded to promote human rights and reforestation in Kenya. The campaign is backed by Prince Albert II of Monaco, a recent convertto the green movement and the World Agroforestry Centre. As Mrs. Maathai said: “This is something that anybody can do. Anybody can dig a hole. Anybody can put a tree in the hole and water it, and everybody must make sure that the tree they plant survives. There are six billion of us and counting, so even if only one-sixth of us each planted a tree, we would definitely reach the target.” Unfortunately the campaign is somewhat symbolic, since replacing trees lost by deforestation over the past decade will require planting 14-billion trees every year for the next ten years, the UN says. “A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” :: UN Billion Tree Campaign via ::Hugg
From Arid, Salty Desert to Permaculture Garden: Greening the Desert Revisited (Video)
by Sami Grover, Carrboro, NC, USA on 12.19.09

Image credit: Permaculture Science
Many people were inspired by Geoff Lawton’s original permaculture mini-movie on greening the desert in Jordan–an effort that turned 10 acres of arid, salty Jordanian desert into a lush productive garden. But how has it stood the test of time? As I noted in my post on volunteerism as the cheap oil of permaculture, many demonstration projects seem to be heavily reliant on free labor and free money. Sadly, it seems both have been in short supply for the Jordan project. So the result should be unmitigated disaster, right? Not so fast. If the video below the fold is correct, Mother Nature has stepped in to fill the vacuum.
According to the update below, the Greening the Desert site has received no serious funding or management for 6 years, and yet a number of the plants seem to be thriving. Better yet, soil seems to be replenishing itself through the system of swales—a form of rain harvesting trench—that the original team put in. Impressive stuff.
Now if they could only get some funding…


About pfiddle

Fiddle teacher - mostly Irish trad. Fiddle, mandolin and concertina. Eco-warrior, won E.U. Green Flower Award for Eco Accommodation. Also Irish (Gold) GHA. Green Hospitality Award. Mad keen on self-build - especially straw-bale and cob. 55 with a full head of (slightly) graying hair. No tattoos or piercings. Fond of animals - but legally so. Fond of food - I eat nothing else. Vegetarian by choice, Irish by the grace of birth, Munster by force of (rugby) arms.

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