Burkina Faso – Drought Adaptation


Farmers seek creative solutions to persistent drought, as analysts stress that diversification must be central.

Parts of rural Burkina Faso are experiencing increasingly lengthy droughts; the dry season which historically came between February and June is now extending to July and even August in many rural areas.

With the lack of rain, crops left in fields dry up, rendering a large part of the harvest useless. On May 11th Al-Jazeera reported that the drought caused the government to intermittently cut the water supply to the capital Ouagadougou. One resident in the city said she had not experienced such a crisis for over 20 years.

Farmers in the Passore region have been helped by the introduction of mobile ‘plant clinics’ that allow farmers to bring in damaged crops for inspection and consultation. The initiative is part of the Building Resilience to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme, supported by the United Kingdom’s (UKDepartment for International Development (DFID).

Erik Dirkx, from Welthungerhilfe, a German charity that helped establish the plant clinic system, said, “the plant clinics took a while to get off the ground but are starting to bear fruit…the farmers we speak to appreciate getting expert advice that’s available to them locally,” reported Reuters.

In Burkina Faso over 80% of the population rely on subsistence agriculture and persistent droughts have big implications. According to the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), malnutrition in the north Sahel stands at 9.4% for children under five; 10% is considered a serious emergency.

In Tamissi village in northern Burkina Faso, Reuters reported that two “plant doctors” – Maurice Albert and Rihanata Sawadogo – had set up plants clinics. In one case they diagnosed an insect agricultural pest and offered an environmentally friendly pesticide as a solution.


Farmer, Burkina Faso – CC

Currently, 14 million people across southern Africa are facing hunger due to the prolonged drought caused by the strongest El Niño weather phenomenon in 50 years. South Africa is expected to import half of its maize and in Zimbabwe as much as 75% of crops have been abandoned in the worst-hit areas.

According to new research entitled ‘Timescales of transformational climate change adaptation in sub-Saharan African agriculture‘, diversification is a central strategy that needs to be pursued by farmers suffering from drought and pests. The research suggests that farmers growing nine key food crops are able to withstand the effects of climate change to a much greater degree.

Maize, bananas and beans, some of the most important crops to sub-Saharan Africa, are under the most significant threat. There are suggestions that highly exposed and sensitive areas in Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Niger, which depend highly on maize, millets, sorghum and legumes, should seek to diversify soon. Sorghum and millet, for example, have a higher resistance to heat that maize.

In Senegal there are plans for weather forecasts to reach 7.4m rural people via community radio and text message, which will help farmers to make crucial decisions on the farms, around planting, fertiliser and weeding.

“The images coming out of southern Africa today are alarming, and they should serve as a warning: there is still time to adapt tomorrow’s agriculture for a warmer world, but only if we start now,” according to Julian Ramirez-Villegas, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science, reported AllAfrica.

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

COTTON: Burkina Faso
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.4, Pp.21258B–21259B

Drought and Famine
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.53, No.4, Pp.21239A–21239B

Food Security
Economic, Financial & Technical Series
Vol.52, No.10, Pp.21025A–21025C

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