This profile was prepared when Badara Jobe was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2000.
The New Idea
To achieve sustainable farming, Badara has developed an approach that cultivates and strengthens farmers’ abilities to produce successful crop yields despite climate changes. His core insight is that fluctuations in an already short rainy season introduce a new and complicating set of variables for farmers. Even a missed day of rain or slight decreases in rainfall intensity over a few days can jeopardize certain crops in ways that were not previously understood. What is needed is not simply agricultural diversification, but hedging strategies that involve cultivation in precisely calibrated but small areas for a range of different crops tied to particular seed varieties. The objective is that, should the worst case scenario happen, the plot will still yield sufficient “food energy” to sustain a farmer and his family to the end of the dry season. Areas of focus include the integration of crop cultivation, animal husbandry, planting of cover for forage, and shade crop cultivation. Farmers are also trained to counter to the emergence of pests that respond to these and other changes in the balance of the local ecosystem. To build their confidence, farmers learn on a self-sustaining “core” farm run by local farmers that is within a radius of twenty kilometres and contains many of the same climatic and other variables they face at home. Post-training follow up with farmers ensures that they are confident and motivated to establish their own self-sustaining farm as a resource to other local farmers in their area. Ultimately, farmers learn how to achieve independence and no longer risk dependence on donations or government programs aimed at establishing cash crops and other unreliable agricultural methods. As a next step, Badara is engaging social entrepreneurs who can establish their own training centers to work with those in their farming communities. Through the expansion of his network and integration of leading farmers, he can reach a larger number of communities and foster even more communication, innovation, and community-based development. He has also begun to work with Senegalese farmers along the border, spreading farther into West Africa.