It has been three years since the last rains in Burkina Faso, and the land-locked African nation battles drought and desertification. Women who were once into farming have now been forced to do manual labor. Many are involved in selling sand and gravel to construction sites to support their families.
The fertile lands of Burkina Faso are now parched. Farmers have been forced to permanently shift to other professions that barely sustain them. Climate change has ensured that the nation is slowly turning into a desert. The once lush green landscape is barren. Hunger has taken its toll and people have either migrated or have turned to manual jobs.
Burkina Faso is up there at number 20 when it comes to nations susceptible to climate change.
A Fertile Land Now Desolate
The days of plentiful rain are far behind. The rains would begin in April. The plentiful downpour would flood the parched earth and there would be bountiful harvest year after year. But a third of the nation is now tormented by the pain of hunger.
Burkina Faso’s economy is centered around agriculture. It used to provide a livelihood to 80% of its population. But the recurrent drought has degraded the soils. Deforestation and desertification have majorly impacted the economy.
The nation has frequently faced extreme climate shifts. It began with the drought of the 1970s. The desertification of large parts of the nation has continued unabated.
Rice, groundnuts, and maize were the major crops and even a decade back it was adequate to sustain them. The drought in 2015 changed that, as many were forced to move in search of fertile lands. But even more, areas continue to dry out.
A Worsening Situation
Desperate farmers began cutting trees for sustenance. It further worsened the situation. It accelerated the degradation and hastened the reduction in the seasonal rainfall.
Food prices have naturally skyrocketed. Bare necessities are all that remain for people to survive on. And the conditions are worsening as environmentalists predict more extreme climatic conditions shortly. A year ago the rains came in much too early for the farmers to have proper preparations for it.
Short-term survival measures like mining gravel and sand have made the situation worse. The unturned earth now can no longer hold on to the little rain that comes in. erosion also has degraded the topsoil.
Mathieu Ouedraogo of MARP Network Burkina is part of the ‘Make The Sahel Green Again,’ an initiative to teach the people to plant trees. This helps to drive the revival of the greenery that once covered Burking Faso.
Helping In The Effort
The government of Burkina Faso has been behind the efforts to support the farmers. They have been trying to assist the farmers to grow miller or maize varieties that are more immune to weather extremes. The ministry of environment is also persuading farmers to go for radical techniques including farming inside water-capturing areas or building barriers to prevent water runoff.
A Vicious Cycle
Ever-increasing temperatures are only worsening the crisis. The costs keep going up and it has become difficult for Burkina Faso to sustain the effort. The highly exposed regions need billions of dollars to adapt to climate change.
Even a rise in 2 degrees Celsius will lead to a decrease of a quarter of the nation’s crop output, as per reports by USAID.
The conversion of farmlands to housing estates has worsened the situation. Farmers, unfortunately, have no other choice other than to vacate such areas. But moving brings with it more uncertain times for the beleaguered farmers of Burkina Faso.