The Man Who Stopped the Desert (2010) — Burkina Faso
Yacouba Sawadogo is an illiterate farmer in the west African country of Burkina Faso who's done more to reverse the ravages of drought and desertification than all the money and expertise of western aid and agencies. So says the Dutch scientist Chris Reij, who helps to narrate this documentary film about Sawadogo. Reij has helped Sawadogo for twenty-five years. His simple methods have turned 50 acres of harsh desert into lush forests. First, he digs "Zai holes" or pits that are bigger and deeper than normal, and fills them with manure. The holes help capture the rain. Next, simple lines of small stones on the hard, baked land slow down the rain run-off and help it soak into the ground. Sawadogo has faced opposition from "land chiefs" because he's going against traditional practices, and from the government's plan for urban expansion. Still, his techniques have impacted the social, cultural, economic, and environmental aspects of his community. They now enjoy "food sovereignty" even in years of little rain.