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The Man Who Stopped The Desert

 
                                    
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Doing some Desert Permaculture research I was reading up on desertification when I stumbled upon natural “counter-desertification” techniques employed by Yacouba Sawadogo. The story goes that Mr. Sawadogo, a native of Burkina Faso, a land-locked country in West Africa bordering the Sahara, was able to restore ~50 acres of arid land back to a fruitful landscape. Apparently his techniques attracted the attention of Dr. Chris Reij of VU in Amsterdam and there is a documentary all about it from 1080 films out of the UK: http://www.1080films.co.uk/project-mwsd.htm

I tried to figure out a way to watch it without ordering from their website but haven’t had any luck yet. So then I went looking for literature from VU and I managed to find this…

http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ifpridp00914.pdf.

The pdf provides a little more info than the wikipage but it would still be nice to see real footage of Mr. Sawadogo’s PC site among other things.

So from what I’ve read (section 3 p.4- Yacouba’s two main techniques are the Zaï hole & the Contour Stone Bund (Cordons pierreux?). In the most basic sense, Zaï holes are ~1ft[sup]3[/sup] pits packed with manure or compost to improve soil and the CSBs are rows of fist-sized stones for water management (when it actually rains). I suggest reading up on it for further details.

So finally I came here to find out the real scoop on this guy and was surprised that the forum-search-option revealed not even a mention of this guy. Has anyone here ever heard of Yacouba Sawadogo?

Aside from these methods I have also seen both parts (I & II) of geoff lawton’s “Greening the Desert,” and found that to be highly informative and inspiring, and was hoping to get the same out of this new film. What do you guys think Geoff Lawton would have to say about these methods? Does anyone think he would incorporate any of Yacouba’s ideas into the methods he is currently using to counter desertification in Jordan? If so, then how?

CSR
 
Jordan Lowery
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is this the guy who says you must plant the rain first?
 
Jack Shawburn
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This reminded me immediately of the soil imprinting video with Bill.
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Fascinating. I haven't heard of him, but now I have. I thought of imprinting a lot as I was watching the trailer.
 
Tyler Ludens
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soil wrote:
is this the guy who says you must plant the rain first?


I think that is (or was) Zephania Phiri Maseko. 

 
Neal Spackman
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Hey all,

I'm currently doing a desert restoration project in Saudi Arabia--i've got some videos up of the kinds of earthworks we have going, including use of small "fist-size" rock contour terraces that should self-flatten over a couple years. 

Check out our videos at http://www.youtube.com/user/albaydha

 
duane hennon
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hi Pneal

very nice videos
always nice to see actual results
 
                                              
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  i love this guys story!!! The first farmer probably recieved the same criticisms in his own time before people realized the beneifits.
 
Tyler Ludens
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SILVERSEEDS wrote:
  i love this guys story!!! The first farmer probably recieved the same criticisms in his own time before people realized the beneifits.


Or not! 

http://delong.typepad.com/teaching_spring_2006/2008/01/jared-diamond-t.html
 
Jack Shawburn
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Thanks for this one Ludi !
It puts a lot into perspective for me.
I feel small village, permaculture lifestyle to be the "answer"...
 
                                              
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 Im not sure your point? Ive read that silly article before. so farming hasnt benefited mankind? why because farmers pick easier crops to grow. rather then a wider range? isnt that one of the points of this very site in a way? the next evolution of farming which among other things seeks to widen the range of farmed foods. You have to look at a extremely thin group to call hunter gatherers superior. It was a very rough life. Not that many farming communities were not either. another thing permaculture has the potential to change actually. takes work to set things up but depending on your set up can be half passive later. Heck you could purposely grow your area to hunt and gather in, which even if you view hunter gatherers as better, you could not only match them, but have a much more secured base of operations.

All the nutrition issues mentioned, how do we KNOW these things? well we built up culture, yes its had many issues but here it is. Possible at higher levels because of farming. Sure hunter gatherers who have to eat whatever they find eat a wider range of foods so by default get a good range of nutrition. this doesnt mean its superior, they didnt do it out of knowledge but necessity. farmers could just as easily grow a wider range of foods. In fact beating the health benefits of other diets by including probiotics and so many others things, if we wanted to. Im doing this for my own family as i assume many here are.

the whole thing with size is misleading. much research into that suggests not nutrition but warfare causes this. often the tallest strongest men are the leaders in war and are less likely to come back. you could argue farming enables warfare, or atleast larger scale warfare, and its true, but doesnt HAVE to be. we fought as hunter gatherers as well, there were just many fewer so it wasnt as wide scale.

As to the diseases mentioned, that isnt true either. the plague is STILL an issue here for very small groups of people down to a single family that is very remote. Yes of course more people means a greater spread of disease, but theres not a shred of evidence to suggest there was less disease before farming, beside where poor nutrition plays a role. Heck arguably now (although much of its ignored) we know many of the causes of diseases, and how to thwart them we can be them by knowledge rather then circumstance.....

the entire article is rather silly actually. Its all conjecture. Just because people took the easiest answers, such as farming as hunting became to hard, or growing the easiest crops rather then a range doesnt mean farming is bad. It means people should of grown a wider range. That is rather obvious I would of thought, but Ive debated this very article on other boards and many still think this article is "official" in some way. I guess because an "expert" did it....

We as humans like to pretend we are the pinnacle of the race, its always been this way most likely. We are a young race though. we have a lot to learn. purposely growing food AKA farming is not negative in any way, we simply have often used it inefficiently or slowly depleted land or grew to slim a range of things etc... thats OUR ignorance not the inferiority of farming.
 
                                              
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Further the article amounts to saying ignorance is good, and knowledge bad. Because we are still learning and often employ knowledge without a full work up of its ramifications. which is certainly an issue especially in our age of GMOs, and crazy chemicals and many other related things.

this is essentially the same song with a different tune of the early church. It probably goes back to the first farmers actually, there were those who questioned it..... Myself though, think we are an amazing evolving species. weve done a bunch of dumb stuff to ourselves, to eachother to other animals and living things, no doubts there. this doesnt imply learning or knowledge is wrong, only that we need to learn to be wiser about implementing it.

  a perfect example being perma culture. It has the potential to alter farming forever. Now we can use more variables in our constructs and have perpetual fertility, higher yields or produce where we couldnt before. Just like farming originally much of this will indeed likely come about through necessity. although not exactly because many used these means in bygone eras, they simply did not amass as much knowledge as we have today, otherwise many of those systems would of grown and expanded long ago.....

 
 
duane hennon
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Bill Mollison in one of his books stated that  existing hunter/gatherer tribes either plant/grow or find/select approx 80% of the plants in their diet. a type of farming. .He  imagined this approach with a wider knowledge base and resources - this was one of the basis for permaculture

Allan Savory gives a very interesting talk about pre-human and human actions in messing things up, we've been doing it for a long time. His discussion is illuminating
(found on that other permaculture site )

http://permaculture.org.au/2011/03/28/keeping-cattle-cause-or-cure-for-climate-crisis/


btw Silverseeds, relax we're all friends here
 
                                              
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  Im relaxed as could be actually. I meant no offense by anything I wrote.

  you make a great point, because as a plant breeder (Im just starting) this becomes very clear actually. Pants and the animals that eat them evolve together.

  which really leads me to another thought i touched in another post, if we purposely breed for superior systems we can take such knowledge to the next step. I may have to start a thread at some point, theres lots of possibilities there Ive never seen others talk about.....
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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Jen0454 wrote:
Thanks for this one Ludi !
It puts a lot into perspective for me.
I feel small village, permaculture lifestyle to be the "answer"...



I agree with you.

On a side note, this poor man had his food forest annexed by the town once it became profitable; and people in my county are fighting the same thing against a corporation that wants to install a LNG plant.  The correlation being the pipeline goes through peoples backyards, and ranches.

Scary that once a person builds something profitable, a government can just annex it away from you. *snaps fingers*  like that.
 
                                              
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that is terrible!!!
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul, Caleb, and Krista review the film, "The Man Who Stopped the Desert" in this podcast: podcast
 
George Collins
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I have long been familiar with Jared Diamond's works. I was first exposed to them in the mid-90s when, during a lay-over at some monstrosity of an airport, I happened upon and subsequently bought The Third Chimpanzee. Doing so has led to a long fascination with several of the things he proffered in said tome. As I clicked on the above link to his work, I was struck almost instantly by something he asserts that is patently false. Mr. Diamond alleges:
With agriculture came the gross social and sexual inequality, the disease and despotism, that curse our existence.


I guess Mr. Diamond has never read A journey from Prince of Wale's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the northern ocean by Samuel Hearne.


Mr. Diamond goes on to allege that in hunter gatherer societies, "Since no food is grown and little is stored, there is (in this view) no respite from the struggle that starts anew each day to find wild foods and avoid starving."

I can only assume that Mr. Diamond has never read Eskimos Prove and all Meat Diet Provides Excellent Health by Vihjalmur Sefanson or Fatal Passage which is about the Arctic expeditions of John Rae.

Mr. Diamond continues,
It’s almost inconceivable that Bushmen, who eat 75 or so wild plants, could die of starvation the way hundreds of thousands of Irish farmers and their families did during the potato famine of the 1840s.


While it may be true that starving is inconceivable for a bushman, to believe that starvation was inconceivable for hunter-gatherers as a whole would be a very selective telling of what we know. For instance, Samuel Herne tells of starvation among the indian tribes upon his being forced by the French to retire from Prince of Wale's Fort. Additionally, given the wholesale slaughter common among the aboriginal peoples he encountered, murder was just as an effective check as starvation on human population numbers to prevent overuse of natural resources. Lastly concerning this point, not all hunter gatherers made use of diets as varied as the Bushmen he uses as an example. For instance, the aboriginal peoples that Herne traveled with gained sustenance almost exclusively through hunting. And when a person became too old to keep up with the rest of the tribe, the rest of the tribe simply walked off from them and let them die of exposure, starvation, predation, etc.

Mr Diamond also says that,
modern Greeks and Turks have still not regained the average height of their distant ancestors


However, genetic analysis suggests that modern Greeks (I don't' know about the Turks) are not of the same genetic stock as the pre-Agrarians that originally inhabited that land. So in this example at least, a partial telling of the truth unfairly skews the point in his favor.

Mr. Diamond gives seemingly grudging acknowledgement that there is another school of thought that states, concerning humans crowding together,
it was the crowding, rather than agriculture, that promoted disease, but this is a chicken-and-egg argument, because crowding encourages agriculture and vice versa.


I would allege that farming would tend to scatter people out. All of the farmers that I know live relatively remote lives. Farming requires the use of relatively sizable parcels of land. Joel Salatin lives on a 500 acre farm and as such, he and his family live a relatively isolated existence. Contrast that to modern factory workers that live in subdivisions, in houses situated on lots so small they can spit on one another without either the spitter or spittee ever leaving the dead-center point of their respective back yards. The ones that crowd together are the excess of humanity that do not farm, not the farmers. And contrast that even further with hunter-gatherers that live in close proximity to one another at all times except when they are actually involved in the business of hunting or gathering. Every time I have ever watched a documentary about some tribe in the Amazon that still practices a relatively primitive lifestyle, they always live their day-to-day lives in some large communal arrangement. I know of no examples to the contrary.

It isn't agriculture that causes humanity to group up. Rather it is the natural human tendency.

And it isn't agriculture that causes division of the classes, rather it is part of the natural human psyche.

It isn't agriculture that causes war, despotism and social parasitism, rather it is part of the human condition.

Special attention needs to be placed on Mr. Diamond's assertion that,
Women in agricultural societies were sometimes made beasts of burden. In New Guinea farming communities today I often see women staggering under loads of vegetables and firewood while the men walk empty-handed.


Mr. Diamond commits perhaps his worst of all selective-telling-of-the-truth-which-is-another-way-of-saying-lie with this knee slapper. If Mr. Diamond believes that women in hunter-gatherer societies weren't treated as beasts of burden then he has education in the matter is woefully lacking. Indeed, it is the rule that women in every society, be they hunter-gatherer or agrarian, were/are worse than beasts of burden for the men rape their beasts of burden relatively infrequently compared to to how often women were/are raped in damn nigh every place on earth where the law of the jungle holds sway. The instant that the protection of law breaks down, the men enjoy a sexual nirvana and the women, a sexual hell. Read Samuel Heane. Read about the rape of German women by the Soviet troops after Berlin fell. Read about the recent rape of the Haitian women in refuge camps. Hell, read about ANY society where the rule of law breaks down or where there is no rule of law to begin with. When the law of the jungle reigns, you don't own anything that another is strong enough to take away from you - and that includes your "right" to your body.

The above linked book written by Samuel Herne is perhaps one of the most enlightening works of literature I have ever been exposed to. It forever changed the way I see the world. And if you take my advice and read it, do so without thinking ill of the aboriginals. Think instead that you are reading your own unwritten history for the only thing that separates what Samuel Hearne saw and your own ancestors is that writing had been invented by the time Herne made his journey and was able to record what he saw. I would be willing to bet a life-times income that if we ever invent a time machine and we go back to study my (your?) own European (or another other) ancestors, we would find conditions identical in all material respects to what Herne found.

As to the diet of ancient humans conveying greater health benefits, after some years of casual study and personal experimentation, I'm prepared to say that I think that the hunter-gatherer diet is VASTLY superior in every possible way to a vegetarian diet.

 
Jonathan 'yukkuri' Kame
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Jack Shawburn wrote:This reminded me immediately of the soil imprinting video with Bill.


This one? About halfway through...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGotaEnwqic&feature=related
 
Ken Peavey
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Found this on Youtube: The Man Who Stopped the Desert - trailer 1
 
Suzy Bean
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Paul, Caleb, and Krista review the man who planted trees in this podcast: podcast


They compare the film to "The Man Who Stopped the Desert."
 
Joy Banks
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chicken greening the desert urban
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It's available on YouTube for $2.99 

 
Tell me how it all turns out. Here is a tiny ad:
2017 Homesteaders PDC (permaculture design course) & ATC (appropriate technology course) in Montana
https://permies.com/wiki/61764/Homesteaders-PDC-permaculture-design-ATC
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