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The Man Who Stopped the Desert

Yacouba Sawadogo, an illiterate African peasant farmer, has transformed the lives of thousands of people across the Sahel, a bleak land between the Sahara desert and the wet forest of tropical Africa. During the 1970s and early 80s this vast region continued to creep southward, extending ever further into once agriculturally productive lands. Families abandoned their villages in search of food and water, but Yacouba Sawadogo, living right in the heart of the crisis in northern Burkina Faso, decided he would remain steadfast against the creeping desert. His 20-year struggle to revive, adapt and perfect an ancient farming technique known as Zai Yacouba has been internationally recognized for its success in reversing the process of desertification. Through cinematic reconstruction, Yacouba narrates his own gripping and dramatic story, revealing that his hardest battle was not with the elements, but with the people around him who would not accept his new agricultural methods. In 2009, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation declared small farmers like Yacouba as key to alleviating famine and poverty among the world’s poorest, launching a multi-million dollar research and investment program into local solutions for Africa. Filmed and directed by Mark Dodd.

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