Tani Lankoande – Farmer Innovator in Burkina Faso
My name is Tani Lankoandé, and I am a farmer from Sagadou, a region located in the east of Burkina Faso. In this part of the country, farming conditions are precarious because of the low and irregular rainfall pattern and the degraded soil.
I wake up very early in the morning to go to my farm. Today when I walk in my field, which has reached maturity, it is hard to contain my satisfaction. This year’s harvest is expected to be good.
Producing that much on this hostile soil and climate conditions was almost unimaginable. With the assistance of my husband, we store the results of our hard work. My cowpea silo is already full, even though the harvest is not yet complete. Achieving such farming results here in Sagadou, as many can witness, was complex and difficult.
When I finally understood the challenges that all farmers have been experiencing up to now, which are intensified by a more recent and more constraining fact called climate change, I did not just lean back and wait for something to happen.
I decided to learn about the phenomenon and adapt to it in my own way. According to me, it is not a figment of imagination, it is a new situation that we, people who work the soil, have to deal with, find the best possible solutions for adaptation: the solution that will allow me to improve soil fertility without extra financial resources which I don’t have. First of all, I tried using stone barriers to retain water, but the result did not fulfil my expectations. It then came to my mind that dead leaves from trees could be used as organic fertiliser. This agricultural practice is not well-known in the area but the benefit is that it is accessible to everyone, particularly to modest producers who can’t afford chemical fertilisers and who don’t have livestock that can provide animal organic manure for their farms.
I started off with a simple observation: the residues of fallen leaves are transported by rain water and enrich the soil at some places they lodge. These leaves decompose into humus and make the land fertile and arable. Thus, I would collect these dead leaves and put them into small piles throughout my farm while making sure to add ash. Ash prevents termites from attacking the piles of leaves and the harmattan winds from blowing the leaves away. Then I would wait for the first rainfall to spread the leafy matter all over farm. This stage is followed by ploughing, and all other related work for the plants to grow normally.
The result shows that I am right and it gives me incredible satisfaction. There is a clear difference between the areas that got treated and those where I haven’t been able to apply the technique yet.
Mr. Kouila, a leader from Association Nourrir Sans Détruire (feeding without destroying), the local partner of Groundswell International, he heard about my initiative and took interest in it. He decided to support me in the implementation of my idea because of its originality. Taking into account the results achieved, my farm became a case study. The fertilisation system based on dead leaves has quickly spread to the regional capital where it was examined by the researchers of the Environmental and Agricultural Research Institute (INERA) and they are very positive about the technique.
It is true that many farmers of the village considered my agro-forestry innovation as a waste of time. But that was before they saw my farm looked like during the rainy season. Today, many have adopted the innovation. Most of the neighbouring farms have started using it with very encouraging results.
According to me, if the dead leaves fertilisation system is successful, it is because it has proven benefits. It doesn’t require financial means and the resource is readily available. It appears to me that the regional directorate of INERA is planning to improve the system and spread it to the farmers.
It is clear that, nowadays, uncertainty and sometimes the dangers related to climate change have attracted people’s attention. But I humbly believe that farming practices like the fertilisation system based on dead leaves can give life back to the land and also hope to farmers.
We think that climate change is irreversible and people need to adapt. It is quite possible to adapt to the harmful impacts of climate change. From my own experience, this can be done at a reduced cost. Now, all I wish is that well-known researchers from the capital cities improve my finding. I also count on organisations such as the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), which is involved in the promotion and awareness raising of farming initiatives like mine.
This system has positively changed my life by increasing the productivity of my family farm. For this year and for the coming years, my family will have enough food. This is an accomplishment for a woman like me, until now without a story.
By supporting farmers like Tani, you empower them to innovate and spread solutions to the soil and fertility crisis in West Africa. Please consider making a donation today. Tani told her story for a film produced by Association Nourrir Sans Détruire entitled Un peu de feuilles mortes pour redonner vie à la terre (A Few Dead Leaves to Revive the Earth). Watch the full 14 minute film here.