Web alliance for Regreening in Africa

In memoriam Yacouba Sawadogo, icon of Regreening in Africa

We received the sad news that our friend and project partner Yacouba Sawadogo, “the Man who Stopped the Desert” passed away on 3 December 2023.

The farmer innovator Yacouba Sawadogo became world famous after the documentary “Man who Stopped the Desert” by Marc Dodd in 2009. Yacouba Sawadogo won became a symbol of regreening in Africa, of agro-forestry and grassroots initiatives.  He was a friend of our colleague Chris Reij.

In 2009 we invited Yacouba Sawadogo to the Conference on Social Development, that was organized as a tribute to Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, who was receiving a honorary doctorate from VU. These two iconic persons Tim Berner-Lee and Yacouba Sawadogo met each other, and presented their stories to the audience. Yacouba Sawadogo who only speaks Mooré was represented by Mathieu Ouedraogo, the president of Réseau MARP Burkina, who also became a member of the W4RA family ever since.

This public event marked the start of a new research programme at VU: the Web Alliance for Regreening in Africa that has existed ever since, in which numerous research projects, two PhDs and many master projects have been accomplished.

In 2018 Yacouba Sawadogo won the Right Livelihood Award, a prize to “honour and support courageous people and organisations offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems”. This award is widely known as the “Nobel prize” for the Environment.

Yacouba Sawadogo participated in various W4RA workshops, we organized in Gourcy and Ouahiagouya, for more than a decade, since 2010. The last time we met in person, we were interviewed by Radio La Voix du Paysan about our efforts to support regreening by communities in Burkina Faso. The late farmer innovator and colleague of Yacouba, Ousseini Zoromé, was there as well and my collegaue Wendelien Tuijp. We were broadcast live on the Burkinabé radio.

Anna Bon, 5 December 2023