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Science combatting desertification in the Sahel

Barkissa Fofana research, a result of partnership between INERA and AAD programme, is one example of how the programme is working to make degraded land in the Sahel green and productive again.

©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
11/02/2019

Barkissa Fofana believes that microbiology is key to making degraded land green and productive again, and she is carrying out research to prove it.

“Something has to be done to tackle the environmental problems caused by climate change, desertification and population growth,” says Barkissa from an Acacia field just outside the city of Djibo in Burkina Faso’s northern Sahel region.

Barkissa, a 30-year old microbiologist at Burkina Faso’s Institute for Environmental and Agricultural Research (INERA), is particularly interested in the role of micro-organisms in solving these problems.

Take the example of nitrogen fixation, she says. There are bacteria capable of transforming nitrogen gas in the air into nitrogen compounds that can be used by plants as a natural fertiliser. Some of these bacteria are symbiotic: they enter a plant through its roots and make nitrogen available for the host plant to grow.

The field of Acacia trees is her testing ground. Here she is monitoring the development of these gum-producing trees, which have been inoculated with different natural, symbiotic bacteria and fungi. She wants to find out if, and how, they help the trees to become more resistant to drought, grow better and produce more gum.

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