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  • Yacouba Sawadogo, West Africa’s Wangari Maathai who single handedly stopped the desert is the winner of the 2018 Right Livelihood Award, Sweden’s “alternative Nobel prize”.
  • He is set
    to receive 3 million Swedish crown ($341,800) prize money.
  • With the
    award, Sawadogo and Wangari are now but two peas in a pod and Mama Africa
    couldn’t be prouder.

Yacouba Sawadogo, West Africa’s Wangari Maathai who single handedly stopped the desert is the winner of the 2018 Right Livelihood Award, Sweden’s “alternative Nobel prize”.

He is set
to receive 3 million Swedish crown ($341,800) prize money.

Yacouba
Sawadogo, who has quite a lot of similarities with the late Nobel Laureate
Professor Wangari Maathai,
the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace
Prize, and in her absence, is carrying the mantle, shared this year’s award
with three Saudi human rights activists and an Australian agronomist.


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Yacouba Sawadogo (Gunther Willinger)

 

Sawadogo
is a small farmer from Burkina Faso hailing from the Sahel Region who
popularized an ancient farming technique to reverse desertification and is best
known as “the man who stopped the desert”.

Yacouba Sawadogo vowed to stop the desert — and
he made it,”
said Ole von
Uexkull, executive director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation on Monday.

“If
local communities and international experts are ready to learn from his wisdom,
it will be possible to regenerate large areas of degraded land, decrease forced
migration and build peace in the Sahel,”


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Right Livelihood award chairman Amelie von Zweigbergk, left, and Executive director Ole von Uexkull. (alaraby.)

 

The Right
Livelihood Award prize honours people who find solutions to global problems.

Sawadogo
is known for turning barren land into forest using “zai” – pits dug
in hardened soil that concentrate water and nutrients, allowing crops to
withstand drought.

The
technique has been used to restore thousands of hectares of dry land and in
doing so reduce hunger in Burkina Faso and Niger since he began to teach it in
the 1980s, according to the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.


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Millet growing in zai pits in Burkina Faso. (Hamado)

 

The Sahel
region of Africa is a 3,860-kilometre arc-like land mass lying to the immediate
south of the Sahara Desert and stretching east-west across the breadth of the
African continent.

A largely
semi-arid belt of barren, sandy and rock-strewn land, the Sahel marks the
physical and cultural transition between the continent’s more fertile tropical
regions to the south and its desert in the north.

Sawadogo
said he hoped he would be able to “use the award for the future.”

My wish is for people to take my knowledge and
share it. This can benefit the youth of the country,”
he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone
from his village in Burkina Faso.

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Sawadogo is a small farmer from Burkina Faso hailing from the Sahel Region who popularized an ancient farming technique to reverse desertification and is best known as “the man who stopped the desert”. (observers.france24)

Just like
Wangari, Sawadogo faced numerous resistance in the beginning and was even
called a ‘madman’ and saw his forest set on fire but he was determined to see
his dream for a green Africa come to light.

Over
time, people came to admire his work and now “zai” have been adopted
by aid agencies working to prevent hunger in the region.

He
successfully created an almost 40-hectare forest on formerly barren and
abandoned land which today, proudly stands and has more than 60 species of
trees and bushes.


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Yacouba Sawadogo successfully created an almost 40-hectare forest on formerly barren and abandoned land which today, proudly stands and has more than 60 species of trees and bushes. (Facebook)

 

It is
arguably one of the most diverse forests planted and managed by a farmer in the
Sahel.

Sawadogo
told his story in a 2010 film called “The Man Who Stopped the Desert.”

With the
award, Sawadogo and Wangari are now but two peas in a pod and Mama Africa
couldn’t be prouder.



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