Zai: A technique to recover lost land

Growing in holes which allows water and manure to be concentrated in microbasins where seeds will be sown


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BF Burkina Faso


About the project Edit

Zai is a special form of growing in holes that allows water and manure to be concentrated in microbasins where seeds will be sown.

During the dry season, holes 30 to 40 cm in diameter and 10 to 15 cm deep are dug and staggered every 80 cm with a daba (a short-handled pick). The earth that is removed is deposited in half moons downstream of the holes to improve surface roughness. Runoff, wind speed and erosion are, therefore, restricted.

Zai encourages woody regeneration if the farmer leaves leguminous trees and shrubs with the manure. It is agro-forestry. The wood produced can be used in five years.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

This project allows very arid lands to be recovered and improves them for farming. The technique helps combat drought in the Sahel and recovers what was excluded from farming practice.

Zai helps save seed and improvements since gains are localized and protected against wind and runoff. It also allows whole grain yield to be increased by a factor of 100 from the first year and rehabilitates soil fertility at the end of five years. (Farmers can then reuse a cultivating technique that is less constraining).

What is the social value of this project? Edit

This technique that recovers lost land resolves the land tenure problem due in one part to demographic pressure and promotes the affordability of farming production on the other.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

The new growing technique is practiced in Mali, Niger and Burkina. Virtually the entire northern Burkina population virtually practices this technique.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Soil in Sahelian regions at the ultimate stage of degradation are called zipellé. They are barren, hard, cramped and whitened by the rains. They are poor in mineral and organic matter, and rich in kaolinite. Nothing grows on them anymore, so the soils are abandoned. Farmers, therefore, colonize marginal land. That is why implementing this project of recovering lost land is a major innovation.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

The COREF Zai project attempts to discuss existing knowledge. The results could contribute to opening new research perspectives and improving adoption of the technique. The project is one of the INCO-AIDA project’s Workpackages.

It is realized by a joint team:


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