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Burkina Faso: Farmer groups learn good practices to manage natural resources

It’s September, and the rainy season is coming to an end in Kossoghin, a village around 30 kilometres from Kaya, capital of Burkina Faso’s Centre-Nord region. Rakiswilgda Sawadogo, a farmer in his late fifties, is preparing his garden for off-season crops.

Mr. Sawadogo is president of the Wend-panga (God’s strength) group, which has 10 members, including two women. They farm a hectare of land, producing tomatoes, cabbages, onions, and other vegetables on the banks of the Kossoghin reservoir.

Mr. Sawadogo explains: “We have learned how to make organic fertilizer, how to protect watercourses from silting up, and how to restore forests so that natural resources are conserved and benefit everyone. Wend-panga also purchases land for farming. Its president is responsible for equitably distributing portions of land among the members of the group.”

The group uses best practices for preserving and sharing forests, watercourses, and other types of natural resources in the area around the Kossoghin reservoir so that they benefit everyone. It has received technical support from the VIMPlus project. 

The farmers learned how to protect and restore the forest by attending trainings and awareness-raising events. Marie Rose Ganamé is in charge of the VIMPlus project, which operates in eight communes in the Centre-Nord region. Mrs. Ganamé says the project has trained producers on conservation techniques and ecosystem management to ensure that they have ongoing access to natural resources. She adds, “We have carried out community consultations and found that there are threats to all natural resources due to the pressure of human activities.”

To help communities better preserve, protect, and restore these resources, the project carried out a study to identify what resources already exist in the area. Then the project established management committees in each commune, and trained them on how to manage the resources, as well as how to process non-timber forest products, make organic manure, make and use zaî planting pits, and protect the banks of reservoirs. 

The project also supported committees to draw up local land charters that align with a law on the security of land tenure in rural areas of Burkina Faso. The land charters are rules defined by the communities in compliance with the law. They aim to promote best practices for protecting natural resources.

VIMPlus also conducted campaigns to raise awareness of the proper use of different types of resources. The campaigns featured radio broadcasts, including interactive programs and microprograms.

Mrs. Ganamé explains: “We did an interactive program on integrated water resource management, another on the forestry code, and microprograms on the consequences of bush fires and the gathering of unripe products to raise awareness of the harmful effects of these actions.” 

Mrs. Ganamé says that, before the project, communities used practices that polluted or otherwise damaged watercourses. For example, market gardeners and gold miners used prohibited chemicals that destroyed aquatic life around reservoirs. Farming the banks of the reservoir silted up the watercourse, resulting in a lack of water during the dry season for off-season crops.

Today, Wend-panga’s actions are bearing fruit. Producers are organizing themselves to protect the forest, waterways, and other natural resources. This has had a positive impact on biodiversity in Kossoghin. As Mr. Sawadogo explains: “Some plants and animals had disappeared from the forest due to the pressure of human activity. But now we can see that these plants are growing again, and some animals are also coming back.”

The VIMPlus project supported producers in north-central Burkina Faso to adopt best practices for managing and equitably sharing natural resources, and has come to an end. But Wend-panga wants to share its experience with other villages. 

Mr. Sawadogo concludes: “We’ve made friends with neighbouring villages that haven’t benefited from VIMPlus, and we’re sharing our knowledge and experience with them. We hope that this beneficial project will one day return.”

ViMPlus, or the Victory Against Malnutrition Plus Activity, is part of USAID’s RISE II (Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced II) program, which helps vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso and Niger to prepare for and manage recurrent crises and to find sustainable ways out of poverty. ViMPlus is managed and implemented by ACDI/VOCA.