Thousands and thousands of holes, each no more than a metre across, dug into the sand bars, then filled with compost. Into these, farmers are able to plant between four and six gourd seeds per hole – from which can grow up to 10 gourds that the families can eat, store, even sell to make money they can put towards medicine, clothes, livestock or schooling for their children
Zai pits is a traditional land rehabilitation technology that has been invented by farmers in Burkina Faso. Small pits 20-30 cm in diameter and 10-20 cm deep are dug into degraded soils, often hardpans. Pits are dug in the dry season. At the bottom of the pits farmers place about two handfuls of organic material (animal dung or crop residues). Seeds are planted in these pits as soon as the rainfall starts.
The Zay technique is used in Mali, and in Burkina Faso in the Yatenga and Niger provinces where locally it is called Tassa. It can be used in all Sahelian countries, especially in Sudan. The Zay is made on land which is not very permeable so that runoff can be collected. Zai are holes dug approximately 80 cm apart to a depth of 5 to 15 cm, with a diameter of between 15 and 50 cm (Figure 1). Zai improve infiltration of the captured runoff. The holes are deepened each winter. Improvements in the traditional pits by the addition of fertilizer and organic matter (compost) have resulted in dramatic improvements in yield.
Growing salads, fruits and herbs vertically not only allows urban dwellers to grow food in small spaces, but follows the permaculture principles of stacking, using renewable resources and making the most of the edge.
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