Global Policy Forum

Farmers Act on Climate Change



January 20, 2010


Disappointed by the "failure" of the Copenhagen talks to adequately help poor countries adapt to climate change, the Burkina Faso government and farmers are working to adjust farming techniques to changing weather patterns.

"Despite the failure of Copenhagen we must follow adaptation at our own cost because we have been experiencing the impacts of climate change in Burkina for several years, and they are getting worse," Bassiaka Dao, confederation of farmers in Burkina Faso (CPF) president, told IRIN.

Dao said the US$10 billion that rich nations agreed to provide annually to developing countries to help mitigate climate change effects was insufficient. The UN said at the Copenhagen meetings that $25 billion to $50 billion per year would be required.


Over recent years the rains have begun and ended later than usual in Burkina Faso, continuing into October though September is traditionally harvest time, according to Dao.

The rains are also increasingly heavy, leading to soil erosion and flash floods, according to World Bank natural resource management specialist Emmanuel Nikiéma. Some 22,200 hectares of land were flooded in 2009 according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

"The rain comes in torrents, with the capacity to flood a field in 15 minutes," Dao told IRIN.

Meanwhile desertification, long a problem in the north, has now spread in pockets to the south, Nikiéma said.

Longer rains mean crops risk rotting. Forty percent of the cowpea crop and much of the sorghum harvest rotted in 2009, Dao said.

Farmers need more outside help to help adapt to these new conditions, he said.

Through its National Action Adaptation to Climate Change programme, the government has channeled $3 million to help people adapt in the farming, livestock, forestry and water resource sectors.

A key agriculture activity is to extend traditional soil protection techniques, said Dao. Methods include digging "Zai" pits - compost-filled planting pits which hold water, helping deep-rooted vegetables grow; building up grass and rock barriers around crops to protect them from soil erosion; and cultivating manure in septic tanks to use as fertilizer.

But to enable crops to survive erratic rains, many more farmers need access to high-yield, quick-growing seeds, said the World Bank's Nikiéma.

This is one of the priorities of the World Bank's agricultural production and food security support to Burkina Faso, amounting to $54.5 million from 2010-2015. Last year the Bank spent $5 million on distributing quick-harvest sorghum, maize and cowpea seeds.

New varieties of cowpeas can be harvested in 45 days, down from 80, according to agricultural experts; sorghum and maize down to three months from four or five.

Francois Traoré, grain farmer in Burkina's second largest city Bobo-Dioulasso and president of the National Union of Cotton Producers of Burkina, told IRIN more donors should follow suit.

"Aid to help farmers adapt to changes could open up new areas of agricultural production and transform how we produce crops here."



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