Matthieu Ouédraogo

Ashoka Fellow
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Fellow Since 2010


This profile was prepared when Matthieu Ouédraogo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2010.
The New Idea
Local farmers have developed various techniques for assisting plant regeneration in this semi-desert belt, particularly in growing new forests and water systems that can trap humidity and increase crop yield. One example of an innovative farming practice is the construction of a contoured barrier of small stones which guides and evenly disperses infrequent rainfall around crops. However, unlike a regular water canal, the stone barriers also act as depositories where seeds carried by the rainfall can take root and eventually offer shade to crops. Another example of naturally assisted regrowth is when local farmers feed tree seeds to their livestock and then plant the manure (including the tree seeds) and cereal seeds in zains—small carefully dug holes. Eventually, the fertilizer assists the seeds to grow, resulting in fertile cereal plants and trees that can shade them.

Matthieu’s understanding of naturally assisted regeneration extends to innovations in distribution. For example, an innovative small producer in Matthieu’s network has engineered a method for storing potatoes in large underground cellars which is an entirely new approach in the Sahel. This allows the farmer to protect their crop yield and that of surrounding farmers until well after the harvest, when the price of potatoes increases substantially. This particular idea was inspired by a trip to Europe sponsored by Swiss volunteers, where the farmer saw a wine cave and realized that he could keep potatoes cool without refrigeration in a 50 foot deep cellar with adequate air circulation, even if summer surface temperature exceeded 120 degrees.

Matthieu plans to connect small farmers to each others new ideas, and to introduce farmers to more effective uses of locally available natural resources. He will achieve this by a) creating improved supply chains through working together with business entrepreneurs b) working with local governments, particularly with respect to gaining formal recognition for traditional land rights so that small farmers can use their land as collateral in taking out small loans and c) urging other citizen organizations (COs) to identify and encourage innovative small farmers to foster a community of small farmer-innovators.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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