Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Burkina Faso and Climate Change

Production had begun failing as desertification and drought has took their toll on the land in Burkina Faso — which had become severely degraded, with half of the farmland soil turning to sand. 
“Climate changes are evident throughout Burkina Faso. The eastern and southwestern parts of the country, which generally have more favourable weather, are increasingly hit by high temperatures and pockets of drought,” the U.N. Development Programme says
The economy in this Sahelian nation of 20.5 million people, located in the hinterland and within the confines of the Sahara, depends heavily on agriculture, forestry and livestock farming. 
In “Dégradation des sols en agriculture minière au Burkina Faso”, S.B. Taonda, R. Bertrand, J. Dickey, J.L. Morel and K. Sanon explained that after five to 10 years of cultivation, the soil is no longer able to ensure the mineral and water supply of the main food crop (sorghum), leading to yields collapse.
Land degradation poses a serious threat to the sustainable development of Burkina Faso. One-third of its national territory, over nine million hectares of productive land, is degraded. This is estimated to expand at an average of 360,000 hectares per year, according to the FAO.
Despite the country’s Sahelian zone in the north receiving less than 600mm average annual rainfall, Harouna says that the previous had been productive: sales were good, money was coming in, and wages were regularly paid.
But nothing lasts forever. Desertification became more prevalent and the honeymoon came to an abrupt end. 
Ibrahim Harouna, a seasonal small-scale farmer in northern Burkina Faso recounts: “As time went by, we noticed that temperatures kept unusually rising and the sun became harsher and the rain disappeared. The crops became stunted while others dried out, as the land started to turn into something like sand.”
From employing 90 percent of the country’s almost 7-million strong workforce in 2012, as per FAO figures, the agriculture sector now provides 80 percent of all jobs, still accounting for a third of the country’s GDP. However, more than 3.5 million people are food insecure, according to a USAID report.
Farmers in Burkina Faso, and especially those living in the Sahelian areas of this country, are now facing a serious problem of food security and growing impoverishment, SOS Enfants has pointed out. Conflicts over land use and massive migrations are persistent.
Armed conflict and terrorism have exacerbated food insecurity, with regular attacks being perpetrated against security forces and civilians by unknown gunmen. Nearly 600 civilians have been killed, and scores wounded in recent years, according to independent figures.
Nearly half a million people were forced from their homes as increased insecurity resulted in a deepening and unprecedented humanitarian situation.
With an urbanisation rate of 5.29 percent – according to Index Mundi figures – Burkina Faso seems to be experiencing one of the highest urbanisation rates in Africa and in the world, as women, children and elderly people flock to the cities, fleeing from climate change challenges, lingering poverty and armed conflict.
“In Burkina, the problem is not the functioning of the democratic system. The crisis is the spread of jihadist violence. [Former President Blaise] Compaoré used to come to understandings with armed groups in Mali, and in return, they left Burkina alone. That did not help Mali, of course,” Paul Melly, Chatham House Africa consultant, tells IPS. The U.N. has stated that some 300,000 people have fled jihadist violence that spilled over from Mali. “But the present Burkina administration does not cut these sorts of deals, and this leaves the country more exposed,” he points out.
More than 143 million people are set to become climate migrants by 2050 in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America, escaping crop failure, water scarcity, and sea-level rise, according to the World Bank projections. Future degradation of land used for agriculture and farming, the disruption of fragile ecosystems and the depletion of precious natural resources like fresh water will directly impact people’s lives and homes, according to Dina Ionesco, head of Migration, Environment and Climate Change Division at the U.N. International Organization for Migration (IOM).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the main U.N. authority on climate science, has reiterated that the changes brought on by the climate crisis will influence migration patterns.
“As for me, God-willing next week I’m heading to Niger to try to reach Algeria where my friends live and work in the construction sector,” says Harouna.
“Put yourself in these young men’s shoes,” Harouna’s uncle. “What would you do if something like this happens to you? There are no jobs in this country, no peace, no opportunity for the youth and not even good politicians. Just look around us now, the climate is challenging our land, the only source of our livelihoods. Terrorists are ruining our lives and our children’s future, and the only way out of this mess is to go elsewhere to look for a better life,” the uncle, who is sponsoring Harouna’s irregular migration to Algeria, tells IPS.

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