(AFP)

As African policy makers demand compensation for the effects of climate change at a forum in Burkina Faso's capital, the country's farmers fight a daily struggle to halt the advancing Sahara desert.

"Because of the (advancing) dunes many villages have moved," Boubacar Diallo, a farmer in the village of Selbo, some 280 kilometers (174 miles) to the north of Ouagadougou, explained.

"These dunes you see wanted to chase me away from here because the wind would blow the sand right into the houses," Daillo said.

Now the dunes are covered in lush green shrubs which provides a perfect meal for the roaming sheep. The Selbo villagers have managed to stabilize 17 hectares (42 acres) of dunes in just three years.

By planting shrubs in the sand it is no longer swept away and cannot blow into homes or clog up water sources, rare in this landlocked Sahel country.

"Since we started using these techniques I am no longer afraid," said Diallo. "The dunes were empty but now there are shrubs and trees growing and animals grazing."

The dunes are divided up in squares borderd by rows of millet stems, a kind of cereal grass which is an important food source in Africa.

"This helps trap the seeds and once it rains they will start growing on the dunes. That way neither the wind nor rain storms can move the sand," Sylvain Kabore, a local forestry inspector told AFP.

This method allows the natural greenery to regenerate is this part of Burkina Faso that only sees rain about twice a year, the official said.

Once the dunes are stabilised like this farmers grow more millet, okra used in local dishes, or grasses that are cut and dried to use as hay in this mainly pastoral region.

"Before you had to buy a hundred sacks of hay a year, now we just need 10 or 20 bags. We are making important savings," Hamidou Maiga of the neighbouring Djomga village told AFP.

"We used to start having to buy feed for the animals already in October and now that can wait a little longer too."

The programme to stop the desertification in this zone of Burkina is financed jointly by the African Development Bank and the Burkina Faso government. According to the project's coordinator Goudouma Zigani, some 3,000 hectares of dunes should be stabilized by December 2010 giving Burkina Faso much needed extra greenery.

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