|Boussou is located in the province of Zondoma in the Northern part of Burkina Faso, and is characterised in recent years by a continuous and rapid degradation of cultivable lands. |
This environmental situation has serious consequences on the life of rural populations already affected by the bad climatic conditions.
Self Help Africa began working in the region in mid-2008, and has maintained a partnership with a local Association called ASCDIS, (Association pour la Solidarite et le Developpment Integre dans le Sahel) since then.
The group's work seeks to contribute to the restoration of the environment and to improving food security for poor rural farmers in the area.
Through a pilot project implemented in partnership with ASCDIS, the following activities are implemented: awareness campaigns on HIV/AIDS, improved seeds production, organic manure production and particularly water and soil conservation activities.
During the second quarter of 2009 key achievements regarding water and soils conservation in Boussou included the construction of 30 compost pits, and filling of same with 18.5MT of locally produced organic manure.
Thirty (30) hectares of land have been covered with stones bunds, and 10 other hectares prepared with “Zai”.
According to the farmers, the combination of these methods will contribute to increase significantly staple crops’ yields by at least 40% and then to fight against poverty and sustainably improve food security among them.
* Zaï is a planting pit with a diameter of 20-40 cm and a depth of 10-20 cm - dimensions vary according to the type of soil. Pits are dug during the dry season from November until May and the number of Zaï pits per hectare varies from 12,000 to 25,000.(The number of zaï determine how much water they harvest.)
The excavated earth is ridged around the demi-circle to improve the water retention capacity of the pit. After digging the pits, composted organic matter is added at an average, recommended rate of 0.6 kg/pit and, after the first rainfall, the matter is covered with a thin layer of soil and the seeds placed in the middle of the pit.
Zaï fulfils three functions: soil and water conservation and erosion control for encrusted soils. The advantages of Zaï are that it : captures rain and surface/ run-off water;
protects seeds and organic matter against being washed away; concentrates nutrients and water availability at the beginning of the rainy season; increases yields; and
reactivates biological activities in the soil -eventually leading to an improvement in soil structure.
The manure applied to the pits contains seeds of trees or bushes. This helps the regeneration of the vegetation on fields treated with pits. The application of the Zaï technique can reportedly increase production by up to 500% if properly executed.
Amongst the challenges with the technology are the high labour involved with digging holes
( between 300 and 450 hours/hectare); the high maintenance labour (in soils with a high clay or gravel portion, pits require less maintenance than pits dug in sandier soils), and the fact that mechanisation is rarely possible and composted organic materials are required.