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Wégoubri, an innovative agroforestry solution for rain-fed agriculture in the Sahel

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Authors: Nassirou Yarbanga

General - 2024

ISSUE No.: 62

DOI: http://doi.org/10.55515/IKDT9660

Language: English

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The Sahelian rural environment has been deteriorating due to local agricultural practices, threatening rural populations. Terre Verte, an NGO, was established in 1989 to address this environmental degradation, by supporting the Guiè pilot farm in Burkina Faso, wherein they promoted bocage. Bocage involves creating a landscape of meadows and fields surrounded by living hedges, to form a continuous network - a linear forest - where trees, crops and livestock are integrated. These hedges store rainwater during the monsoon season, which reduces runoff and soil erosion, improving soil fertility. The hedges also prevent the problems associated with extensive agriculture including overgrazing, slash-and-burn farming and excessive firewood cutting. Bocage areas are established at the request of landowners and are managed collectively by a land-owning group, combining individual plots and common land. The implementation of bocage at the Guiè pilot farm involved experimentation with new techniques, training in these new techniques, and providing advice and support to farmers. Maintenace is managed by the land-owning group who ensure compliance with the control of livestock, of fire and of wood cutting. Early planting of crops is made possible by Zaï cultivation, a traditional cereal-growing technique that concentrates water and nutrients around cultivated plants. This regenerates the soil and ensures crops survive changes in the weather. Trees in the bocage play a crucial role in encouraging biodiversity and their fertilising functions enrich soil, desalinate it, and produce good compost. The hedges provide firewood and fodder, and the trees provide fruit for consumption, while their leaves and roots are used for local medical practices and cultural traditions. The bocage also creates a microclimate favourable to flora and fauna, conserving species on the verge of extinction. By integrating principles of agroforestry, the bocage approach has successfully increased biodiversity and agricultural productivity, making it a genuine solution for restoring degraded land in the Sahel and improving the livelihoods of rural populations.  

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