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Farmers in semi-arid West Africa understand the value of water, how it limits crop production and how essential it is to survival. They must contend with unreliable rainfall, short, unpredictable rainy seasons, and increasingly frequent natural hazards. Moreover, climate change may exacerbate all three. To sustain their livelihoods, farmers need good strategies for capturing and conserving rainfall and making the best use of it.

There is no shortage of good ideas for conserving soil and water in West Africa. Researchers have developed many simple and useful technologies to optimize rainfed agriculture, but farmers have tended not to adopt them on a significant scale. For various reasons, farmers' problems and researchers' solutions have not connected. However, one idea is making a good connection. Farmers are reviving and adopting tassa, a traditional soil and water conservation practice, at a surprising rate in the Niger. Why is tassa special and what has made it successful?