The drought which has gripped the Sahel region, the belt south of the Sahara, for almost a decade, has crippled the former farmlands of Upper Volta, and pushed the country into near-famine.
EXTERIOR GV PAN: The Sahel region.
GV: Views showing dead trees and bushes. (3 SHOTS)
MV: Tree PAN TO sun.
GV: Village of Korsimoro.
MV: Villagers distributing harvest between villagers women and children look on. (5 SHOTS)
GV: Workers digging trenches PAN TO dam.
MV: Villagers standing or fishing in middle of lake.
MV: Lakeside PULL BACK TO GV former banks of lake.
GV PAN: Irrigation lanes.
CU: Wheel being turned.
GV: Man at dam gate PAN TO water flowing down irrigation pipe.
MV: Children rush to watch water flowing down.
MV: Water running through channel PULL BACK TO GV.
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Background: The drought which has gripped the Sahel region, the belt south of the Sahara, for almost a decade, has crippled the former farmlands of Upper Volta, and pushed the country into near-famine.
SYNOPSIS: The relentless drought, which has stripped bare the Sahel landscape, first started in 1968, but the world knew little about it until five years later. The land was ravaged through not only lack of rain but also through factors such as poor agricultural techniques and over-expanded cattle raising. Any sparse vegetation there once was, had died. Despite a short rainy season in 1974, many livestock herds have been wiped out and much of the population is on the brink of starvation.
North of the Upper Volta capital of Ouagadougou, lies the town Korsimoro, which is typical of villages in the Sahel region. The population of about 40 villagers has divided the last harvest which brought in about 500 kilograms (110 lbs) of millet. The food will have to last them until the next harvest, which will not take place until October of November. If it doesn't rain before then, there will not be a harvest. Last year the national harvest was 114,000 tons short of what was needed. The shortage of food and crops is not a new problem for the people of Upper Volta.
Children here are considered lucky to reach their fifth birthday, and there is little money to care for sick and elderly.
However, near this area, work has begun on a small irrigation scheme which will help to cultivate the sand dunes. The dunes were once the best pasture land, but bad agricultural techniques and the drought have brought on massive erosion.
Water for the irrigation scheme will come from a small artificial lake. Lack of rainfall last summer left the lake well below the level needed for crops and adequate drinking water.
Trenches have been completed and pipes installed to carry the water to the nearby village. The irrigation scheme had been financed by the Catholic Relief Services, an organisation which has worked in Upper Volta throughout the drought. Irrigations crucial to the region if crops and pastures are to be revived. Ninety five percent of the Upper Volta's population were farmers before the drought, but lack of water and soil erosion have taken most of them away from farming and towards starvation. A major hope for these people who have forgotten what a rain a shower is like, is for enough to fall so that small irrigation projects like this one can begin to work.