Burkina Faso: Farmers adapt to drought by taking up market gardening (by Nourou-Dhine Salouka, for Farm Radio Weekly, in Burkina Faso)

| January 14, 2013

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The climate is changing in Ouèglèga, a village outside of Burkina Faso’s capital of Ouagadougou. And so are the practices of local farmers. Once grain producers, village farmers have turned to market gardening.

Mady Kaboré is a farmer in Ouèglèga. He says, “Before, we cultivated sorghum and maize over large areas during the growing season. Today, this is all finished. We have become market gardeners.” The farmer’s statement exaggerates the situation. Local farmers still grow grains. But it is no longer their main farming activity.

Over the past 10 years, the area was hit by three major droughts, leading to a decline in grain yields. Cereal crops are no longer profitable. Market gardening is now a better bet.

Mr. Kaboré dedicates a 20 by 20 metre plot to market gardening. He now earns as much in one month of growing and selling vegetables as he makes in a year growing and selling grain. Other farmers in Ouèglèga are also turning to market gardening.

Just 15 years ago, the village was unaware of market gardening. It was introduced to them by an agricultural officer. The officer taught a dozen farmers how to grow carrots, parsley, tomatoes, cabbages, and peppers. Issiaka Ouedraogo was one of those farmers. He explains, “After training with the agricultural officer, each of us trained our neighbours to grow vegetables.”

Farmers in Ouèglèga use wells to irrigate their market gardens. There are more than 500 traditional wells in the community, which allows farmers to grow vegetables year round.

The farmers also benefit from close proximity to a highway that leads to Ouagadougou. Each morning, wholesalers from the capital travel to Ouèglèga to buy produce.

Maimouna Simporé credits market gardening with providing the money to educate her three children. Her income from selling vegetables covers school fees, supplies, and uniforms. It also allows her to purchase rice and other foods that are not grown in the village, diversifying her family’s diet.

Local farmers are now hoping for government assistance to increase their earnings. Mr. Kaboré says farmers would like to exploit the water available from an undeveloped lowland area. They want the government to dam the area to create a reliable source of water, allowing farmers to expand their vegetable production.  Mr. Kaboré affirms, “Market gardening is clearly our future.”