Child Survival in a Changing Climate

Project location: WORLDWIDE, Various Countries
Project start date: August 2010 - Project end date: August 2012
Project number: 2010-24
Beneficiary: Associazione Witness Image



The impact of climate change in Burkina Faso

The Sahel is a semiarid region situated in the south of the Sahara and in the north of the humid zone that spans west to east across nine countries including Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Sudan.

Beginning in the late 20th century, it was subjected to increase, land degradation, desertification, deforestation and soil erosion caused by natural climate change as well as overgrazing and over farming. Land degradation is a major concern in West Africa, where about sixty five percent of the cultivable lands have degraded. From 2000 and 2005 West and Central Africa lost a total of 67.800 sq km.

More than 300 million people in Africa already live with water scarcity and areas experiencing water shortages are likely to increase by almost a third by 2050. West Africa is made up of a diversity of ecosystems ranging from more tropical humid in the South to arid in the North. While climate change projections of seasonal or annual precipitation are uncertain, the projected increase in intensity of rainfall events, superimposed on the region's already hide climate variability, is likely going to lead to increased frequency of droughts and floods. Water shortage and the land degradation affect large areas of the Sahel.

Forty four percent of West Africa's population works in the agricultural sector, most of them at a subsistence level. Despite the high dependence on agriculture in this climatically variable region, the actual areas under irrigation and among the lowest on a per-area basis for any region in the world. In addition Sahel has the second highest population growth rate in the world. This population growth combined with climate trends and the land degradation could lead to:

-Declining per capita production for the agriculture

-Movement to urban areas or to more fertile farming areas

-Food shortages and famines in drought years

-Declining rainfall in some regions with consequences for rain-fed and irrigated agriculture.

Traditionally shepherding has represented an important mechanism for adjusting to climate variability, since shepherds can move their herds along with the rainfall. A symbiotic relationship often formed between herders and agriculturalists, with agriculturalists receiving animal manure to fertilize their crops in return for allowing livestock to graze on plant stubble. However, as the Sahel has become more densely settled, increasingly severe conflicts over land and water resources have erupted between shepherds and sedentary farmers. Because of the difficulties caused by climate variability, some farmers do manage to find alternative livelihoods such as searching for gold.

In the last year, gold extraction in Burkina Faso has doubled compared to last year. Labour conditions are very hard specially workers security. In conclusion, land degradation, desertification, deforestation and soil erosion, increased by climate change, are the major problems in the Sahel. These droughts and consequent land degradation are now understood to have been caused in part by the pattern of warming of the tropical oceans which itself may have been driven by anthropogenic climate change. Such environmental pressures could grow in the future with climate change.

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