The Man Who Stopped The Desert DVD

Tony Rollinson
Tuesday, 23rd July 2013

An amazing DVD showing how one man singlehandedly turned around a dry and bleak desert into forest and farmland.

The Man Who Stopped The Desert is an unmissable film. It is truly inspirational in that it shows that just one person can have a very real and hugely positive impact on their environment.

The film mixes dramatizations and interviews to tell the wholly remarkable story of Yacouba Sawadogo, a farmer in Burkina Faso, which is in the Yatenga region of central west Africa. His land is in the Sahel, a bleak, dry area between the Sahara and the rich soils further south. Between 1975 and 1985 drought and famine swept through the region and people abandoned their farms and headed towards the cities. Yacouba stayed and began to reemploy an updated version of the ancient agricultural farming technique known as Zai, in an attempt to rehabilitate the area's unproductive land.

Yacouba's fellow villagers called him a 'madman' for staying. Yet, as some of the world's greatest soil experts say, this one man has single-handedly had more impact than all the international researchers in Africa combined. Zai involves digging deep planting pits to secure as much water in the ground as is possible. Low stone walls also help to make sure that water slowly settles on the ground where you want it too. Cleverly, Yacouba uses termites to ensure that manure is broken down into a richer combination.

The initial work is very hard, but the results are staggering. Where there was desert there are now forests and farm land. Not only have trees, birds, wildlife and water returned, but Yacouba has doubled and even tripled production. He shares his skills, knowledge and seeds with others.

The Man Who Stopped The Desert is a high quality production, narrated by the esteemed actor Hugh Quarshie (Othello, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Holby City). It is already not just a cult classic, but a bona fide tour de force of environmental film making. It has won many festival film awards and has been shown at Capitol Hill, Washington as part of a presentation to the President Obama administration.

Yacouba has influenced his whole region's planning and increasingly farming across Africa and beyond. This is a must see film for environmentalists (many of the techniques are practised by permaculturists) everywhere. It reminds you that life can be hard but that, as Yacouba says, "We must not be the enemies of nature". 

You can buy the DVD from

Further resources

The man who stopped the desert or in Spanish, El hombre que detuvo el desierto

How to green the world's deserts and reverse climate change

The planet's soil is being eroded - does permaculture hold the answer?

Greening the desert using permaculture