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Burkina Faso: Flowering Desert
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Burkina Faso: Flowering Desert
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Entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso

Many African refugees are environmental migrants; they are forced to leave their homes because spreading deserts are destroying their livelihoods. A Swiss doctor has set up a new project in the Sahel zone of the Sahara desert aimed at reclaiming land from the advancing sands, and it is giving encouraging results.

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Segment 1

VOICEOVER
Burkina Faso in West Africa. On the northern road out of the capital Ouagadougou in the direction of Djibo you come across one of the last remaining luxurious colonial estates. However, beyond this, the Sahara desert is penetrating ever further into the land. What was formerly fertile countryside is rapidly becoming semi-desert. Over the last few years, rainfall during the rainy season has been negligible, leaving the ground vulnerable to wind erosion and overgrazing. Swiss aid organization newTree wants to put a stop to this vicious circle. A small-scale venture, aimed at fencing in small, manageable areas, has been set up. newTree supplies the raw materials, while the villagers themselves see to the plaiting and erecting of the fences, like here in Pobe Mengao. Using this method, more than 100 hectares of Burkina Faso’s wasteland has been fenced in, with the same success in neighboring Benin. Since the fencing, 120,000 trees have been sprouted and are now thriving. The project was conceived by Swiss doctor Felix Kuechler. After years working for medical development aid, he wanted to make a more permanent contribution to the people of Burkina Faso as well as to help protect the climate.
TITLE
Flowering Desert
DR. FELIX KUECHLER [newTree Switzerland, Burkina Faso]
I have a vision in which this wasteland, covering millions of hectares, becomes green again. It was green hundreds of years ago, a variety of trees and bushes flourished in the savannah, providing food and sustenance to man and beast, natural health remedies, shelter, protection, agro-forestry, even millet and maize can be cultivated here. It all did happen once. This was the reality here.
VOICEOVER
One year and one rainy season later, the ground is covered with grass seed, bushes, and trees that have germinated and grown naturally. There is no need to plant new trees. The emphasis lies in protecting the natural vegetation that already exists.
ZOUNGRANA MICHEL [Dawelgue, Burkina Faso]
We are doing this for ourselves, but even more for our children. Certainly, a long time ago it was suggested that this area should not be deforested. However, it was not possible to keep the whole place under supervision. Now, with fences, we have found a solution, a reliable protection for tree and bush.
VOICEOVER
The Swiss biologist Franziska Kaguembega-Mueller works for newTree and is winning over more and more village communities to the concept of reforestation.
FRANZISKA KAGUEMBEGA-MUELLER [newTree, Ouagadougou]
We can help them care for their environment in order to protect nature and see their lives regenerate. We get deeply moved by this. When we visit the villagers and eat with them, we can clearly see how their life is improving. As they become increasingly able to support themselves, they come across plants that are becoming scarce and trees that are threatened with extinction. For them, that is a cause for joy. Me, too. I feel really fortunate when I come across this.
VOICEOVER
newTree employs a sentry for each community, to protect their huge herds of cattle. Wire netting alone is not enough to see off thieves and marauders.
FELIX KUECHLER
The need for someone to be on permanent watch is clear. This land is passing through a dry spell. A while ago herdsmen came here. They had their boys with them and climbed over the fence into the enclosure. They stripped branches from trees and even took leaves and grass for food. A guard would have been able to keep an eye out in case anyone is tempted to scramble over the fence. The thing is, without good security, this project is much less feasible.
VOICEOVER
The success of these reforestation schemes has encouraged the country’s politicians to get involved. The newTree motto, "Protect trees, not just new plants," has already been absorbed as an integral part of the regional development program.
DICKO ARSSOUKI [Canton Leader, Tongomayel]
If it does not rain, the trees disappear. We must think of our children, of future generations. Therefore, we have decided to plant trees in our area, to let them grow and to protect them. We are using newTree to protect our natural environment. It is the future for us all.
VOICEOVER
Hectare by hectare, wasteland is being reclaimed and becoming green again, providing a living for both people and their beasts in the Sahel -- as well as climate protection for the planet.
TITLE
[end credits]