Mathieu Ouedraogo wins UNCCD’s 2019 Land for Life Award

Mathieu Ouedraogo, president of Réseau MARP, NGO in Burkina Faso and  long-term team member and partner of W4RA and VU Amsterdam, has won the prestigious Land for Life Award, issued by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification   (UNCCD). We congratulate Mathieu with all his achievements, over many decades, to support and further the work of farmers-innovators and local communities in the Sahel.

Quoting Mathieu:

“Ce prix est pour tout le monde : Paysans, Paysannes et tous ce qui ont cru en ma capacité d’accompagnement des producteurs/trices et m’ont fait confiance en me dotant des moyens nécessaires. Si j’obtiens ce prix, c’est grâce à eux et pour eux. Aujourd’hui, si on constate une amélioration des conditions de vie de certaines communautés, c’est certainement grâce à leur capacité d’adaptation aux innovations et je suis convaincu que nous pouvons encore faire mieux dans les années à venir.”

Mathieu Ouedraogo has worked with the W4RA team since the very first day. Since 2009 until present, we have done many workshops, field trips and projects together. In April 2019, 6 weeks before this prize was announced, Mathieu participated with us, as member of the W4RA team in Mali as a senior expert and a resource person for a project on Seed Value Networks and Information Systems in rural Mali, together with farmer organization AOPP. We jointly went to Sibi, south of Bamako, and talked to the seed producers  in that area, to find out the information needs  to improve the rural value chains. Mathieu as a expert in this area provided his valuable knowledge in this domain to further this endeavor of AOPP and VU.

Tim and Mathieu

Tim Berners-Lee and Mathieu Ouedraogo, september 2009. Photo: Anna Bon

In 2009 Mathieu helped to launch the Web alliance for Regreening. He was invited keynote speaker at the Symposium “The Web and Social Development”, organized by VU as a tribute to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, who was the other keynote speaker. Tim Berners-Lee wants to make the Web available for all people in the world, not only in wealthy regions, also in the unconnected parts of the world. In his keynote at this symposium Mathieu Ouedraogo outlined the need to support local innovation for rural Africa’s regreening initiatives. He showed us the need to expand the Web beyond its traditional technological boundaries, reaching also people without Internet, who speak local languages and do not have computers or SmartPhones.

Mathieu en Chris

Mathieu with Chris presenting African Regreening Initiatives at VU’s Dies Natalis, 20 October 2009. Photo: Anna Bon

Mathieu was at this Symposium together with Yacouba Sawadogo, “the Man who Stopped the Desert”, the famous Burkinabe farmer-innovator who made regreening known to the world by his innovative work, and featured in the famous film by Marc Dodd.

One month before the Symposium the Web and Social Development, the W4RA initiators Hans Akkermans, Chris Reij, Wendelien Tuijp, Saa Dittoh and Anna Bon met Mathieu in Gourcy and Ouahigouya, Burkina Faso and visited the farmers who were innvolved in large-scale regreening.

One month later Chris Reij and Mathieu Ouedraogo gave a talk  at VU at the Symposium: the Web for Social Development, 20 October 2009.They presented the idea of local farmer innovation, of African Regreening Initiatives, of local agency in rural Africa. This was one of the basic idea that led to the W4RA. Mathieu remained partner of W4RA ever since. We jointly organized workshops in Gourcy with the farmers-innnovators Ousseni Zoromé, Ousséni Kindo and many others.

Over the years we did many projects. We worked together on the Mr. Meteo use case, to provide meteo data to farmers, in local language Mooré (a system designed by Francis Dittoh and André Baart). We worked with local radio stations in Gourcy and Ouahigouya, working in a really trans-disciplinary, real world research setting. We all use the participatory action research approach. That is at the heart of Mathieu’s work: Réseau MARP (Méthode Action Recherche Participative): Networked Method for Participatory Action Research.


Mathieu Ouedraogo, Yacouba Sawadogo, Chris Reij, Hans Akkermans in the field: the start of the W4RA program in september 2009 in Burkina Faso. Photo: Anna Bon