Harsh periods of drought in Burkina Faso during the past several years motivated Souobou Tiguidanla, a 40 year old farmer from the village of Toumbenga in Gayeri, to look for ways grow more food for his family. In 2010 and 2011 he had to buy food during the “lean” season, a season of little or no harvest when many farmers and their families experience both limited food availability and little to no income generation. Souobou knew that buying food at that time only further increased his family’s vulnerability, and he wanted to ensure that in future years he would be better able to provide for his family even in spite of difficult conditions. To learn more about how he could sustainably increase his farm’s productivity, he attended trainings on agroecological techniques provided by ANSD, Groundswell International’s partner in Burkina Faso, and he has been the first person in his village to adopt ecological farming innovations on his land.
After adopting ecological techniques such as stone contour bunds and composting of crop residues and cow manure, Souobou says that he has seen increased soil moisture and improved soil fertility on the farm. During 2012 and 2013, he was able to increase his overall production of maize, millet, and sorghum from 1,900 kg to about 3,900 kg, while reducing the size of his fields by about a third. And in the 2013 season, when scattered rainfall caused pockets of drought that affected many maize growers, Souobou was able to maintain a good harvest and assist his neighbors and relatives with food.
Souobou says he now feels more confident that he will be able to provide for his family during periods of low rainfall, but he emphasizes that he still has many plans to improve his farm to become not only more productive, but also more resilient to climate change. He is already starting to expand the stone contour bunds to cover more of his fields, and he is applying another technique called “zai”: a system of small micro-water catchments that helps crops withstand dry conditions. He also plans to buy some additional tools, invest in more livestock for manure composting, and teach his children new techniques.
Souobou has provided an example in his community, and he hopes to help others in his extended family and village who wish to learn more about the techniques he is using. He promotes agroecological techniques as a way to improve people’s livelihoods with little need for financial costs and thus a large potential to spread quickly. Souobou’s story is one that Groundswell hopes will become common for many farmers living in the Sahel region of Africa—one of sustainability, resiliency, and grassroots change.
Souobou and his family were also recently featured in the June 2014 edition of Farming Matters magazine. Read more of Souobou’s story here.