From Slash-and-Burn to Slash-and-Mulch

In semi-arid cropping regions of West Africa, fallow periods are getting shorter. As land becomes more scarce, farmers are not able to give their soils enough time to rest. This is leading to depletion of soil organic matter, severely threatening soil fertility and damaging soil structure. In the worst cases, crops hardly yield anything anymore. But this is not an option for family farmers. In Burkina Faso, some have found ways to restore their soils that have been dubbed ‘slash and mulch’. The improvement and spread of these techniques also proves the importance of partnerships between farmers and researchers in developing locally suited practices.

Idrissa Ouédraogo lives in Yilou, a village in the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso, with his wife Fatimata Sawadogo, and their children Nafisatou and Felicité. They grow mainly sorghum and cowpea, and also raise chickens, sheep and goats on a plot Idrissa was given some years ago as a gift from an elder. The soil had a hard surface crust and was completely degraded (known locally as zippélé). Nothing would grow on it, not even grasses. But Idrissa had a vision. He knew he had to bring back the native vegetation if he wanted to grow food. And he knew which shrub he needed, baagandé, or camel’s foot (Piliostigma reticulatum).