Only a poet can stop the desert; Yacouba Sawadogo stopped the Sahel. Only understanding one’s own landscape intimately allows man to inhabit it according to nature. This intuition and this respect belong to poets and farmers.
In 2018 he received his Right Livelihood Award for “the innovative use of indigenous and local knowledge” thanks to using the ancient zaï agricultural technique, to sharing his experience widely, and to his visionary seed archive. Not for distorting the desert, but rather for having freed its lush potential.
In his famous Genius Loci, architect Norberg-Schultz, reflecting on the ‘Spirit of place’, wrote that in Khartoum – the city on the banks of the Nile at the mercy of the surrounding desert – “the river introduces a promise that through the appearance of vegetation becomes a real hope”. But Yacouba’s promise is for all deserts.