Burkina Faso: Promotion of alternative activities for sustainable agriculture and the conservation of the Mare aux Hippopotames Biosphere Reserve


© Thomas Schaaf
Hippopotamus Biosphere Reserve, Burkina Faso

With a gross domestic product (GDP) estimated to be US$ 240 per capita (1997), Burkina Faso, a Sahelian and landlocked West African country, is one of the poorest nations in the world, with a very high incidence (45%) of general poverty. The economy is based on agriculture and livestock breeding.

The Mare aux Hippopotames Biosphere Reserve (MHBR), located in Western Burkina Faso, was established as biosphere reserve in 1987. The deterioration of the climatic conditions (fewer rainfall) has been noticed for many years and the limits of some isohyetes have moved some 50km further south. Climatic constraints have led to more migration resulting in significant anthropogenic pressure around the biosphere reserve. The combined effects of the deterioration of the climatic conditions and land mismanagement (extensive agriculture, fallow time reduction, overgrazing, bush fires, etc.) did not only cause serious problems of desertification but also fuelled general underdevelopment and increasing poverty.

© J.N. Poda
Deforestation in the Hippopotamus Biosphere Reserve, Burkina Faso

These constraints caused Burkina Faso to seize the opportunity of the SUMAMAD project to solve one of the most essential problems facing dry countries, that is to say how to reconcile the conservation of dryland ecosystems and biological resources with their sustainable use before the backdrop of increasing poverty.

The shared experiences among countries with dry climates, in the framework of SUMAMAD, about conservation and sustainable use of the resources might help to imagine together approaches on the use and rational exploitation of natural resources as a benefit for future generations.

Project objective

© J.N. Poda
Reforestation in the Hippopotamus Biosphere Reserve, Burkina Faso

The main objective of this project is to increase the knowledge of the ecosystems and the human activities related to the resources of the biosphere reserve and its influencing zone for their sustainable use and the better living conditions for the neighbouring populations in the framework of an integrated regional land development.


© J.N. Poda
SUMAMAD training seminars with AGEREF, Burkina Faso

Activities are being carried out together with local populations to improve the management of the Mare aux Hippopotames Biosphere Reserve. AGEREF, a local inter-village socio-professional association, worked with local producers using the MARP approach (Accelerated Method of Participative Research) in order to ensure sustainable and participative management of the natural resources in the zone, and to give stakeholders responsibility in the implementation of activities.

For the improvement of dryland agriculture, demonstration sites were established of ecological orchards, mainly of mango and citrus trees, to replace cotton production as a soil restoration effort. This activity also allowed the project team to raise awareness amongst the local populations about the high soil exploitation and resource imbalance caused by cotton production while providing them with an alternative for generating income. The collection of non-timber forest products has also been identified as an alternative source of income.

© Thomas Schaaf
9th SUMAMAD Workshop, Burkina Faso

A survey was conducted of the fishing activities in the MHBR as this resource is under threat.This survey will help in developing a set of recommendations for better management of this resource which many families rely upon for income. Already, the implementation of a previous recommendation has helped to assess the evolution of fishing activities and productivity of the pond.

Anticipation scenarios and environmental education is being carried out at the Bala school through the use of theatre. Further, Forest Management Groups are being developed as multi-disciplinary teams and include important parts of the local population. Partnerships with other institutions are expected to be reinforced through scientific training and technical support, and the national training seminars are helping to target local populations.

The Ninth International Workshop ‘Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands – Phase 2 (SUMAMAD-2)’ was organized in Bobo Dioulasso (Burkina Faso) in December 2011 in order to review the implementation of the SUMAMAD project and its national field  project  activities and to discuss future project activities planned for 2012.

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