In 2016, WWF published a online article, reporting a deforestation reaching 18,7 millions acres annually. A scaremongering statement, which must not impede us from seeing the many initiative taken those last year, supporting reforestation. We also need to notice the French word “Reboisement”, give a better picture of the current action, indeed, vanished primal forest can’t be replaced. Among those project we can cite ReforestAction, the search engine Ecosia, or TreeNation.

There is still other iniatives, sometimes carried by a one man, who are both inspiring and should be taken as models.

Yacouba Sawadogo, the man who push back the desert, if you read newspaper, you certainly rod his name which, in early 2018, was cited many time in the medias. Holder of the alternative nobel prize since the 24th September of 2018, cited in francetvinfo, lepoint, agribusiness TV and others medias, this man saved his village, Gourga, from desertification in the early 80’s. In our article, we will try succinctly describe his method, with its advantages and drawbacks, trying to go further than the media phenomenon aroused by Y. Sawadogo

AgrosolSahel up an inventory of two distinct Zai method. The manual dans the mechanic methods. We won’t details them here, but strongly invite you to look at there website, linked below.

Both method are based on the same principle. The first step is digging a basin in soil during the dry season, from November to June, the basins will catch organic matter, then, at the first rains will be added manure, all this is then covered with dry earth.

Termites, lover of organic matter, will dig tunnel in the Zippelé soil, basins will turn into funnel and water diving into earth  will seep in and won’t be subject to infiltration.


Zai’s origins

The origins of this method are attributed sometimes to the Sodano-Sahelian’s zone, sometimes to West Africa, more precisely to the Dogon’s region in Malia. What we know for sure, is that it come from the necessity encountered by semi-arid Sahelians zone inhabitants to deal with new exploitation strategies of zippelés, those arid and sterile soil. Today, this method is mostly used in Burkina Faso, Y.Sawadogo’s country.

The word “Zai” find is origins in the Mooré language, in which the word “Zaigeré” mean “To wake up early to prepare the soil. This introduce the Zai goal: To rehabilitate productivity and fertility in the Zippelles.

At this point, seeds and sprouts can be droped in, those will later gave birth to new tree and bush. Tree and bush that we can nowadays see in Gourga’s neighbourhood. Two or three years later, according to the methods, it won’t be necessary to use Zai to farm the soil which will be newly fertile.

Even if we can see, today, innovative way to reforest, we must not forgot old way of farming. Those which knew how to use those symbiosis given by nature. Those which knew how to take advantage of symbiosis enven in the worst situation.

🌄Sources & further information, to deepen the subject :

Cesareo, K. and Walker, L. (n.d.). Deforestation | Threats | WWF. [online] World Wildlife Fund. Available at:

Douce, S. (2018). Le cultivateur qui a « repoussé le désert ». [online] Le Available at:

Pontanier, R., M’Hiri, A. and Akrimi, N. (1995). Le Zai, une technique traditionnelle africaine de réhabilitation des terres dégradées de la région soudano-sahélienne. [ebook] Paris: John Libbey Eurotext, pp.249-265. Available at: [Accessed 5 Mar. 2019].

 La technique du Zai. (n.d.). [PDF] Association Sahel People service, pp.1-5. Available at: