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Burkina Faso: Farmers grow sesame, watermelon, and other crops to minimize loss from floods

On a Monday in late August, Alexis Badini rises early to see his field, flooded by the last rains. After 10 minutes on his bike, he arrives at the field, five kilometres from his home. Hoe on his shoulder, the father of about 40 years old sees that the water is still there.

Standing in the field, feet in water and feeling disheartened, he says, “Every year there are floods, but this year it’s worse. For more than two weeks, my field has been flooded.”

Mr. Badini is a farmer in Tomséré, a village in the province of Kossi, about 270 kilometres from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. In his four-hectare field, he grows sorghum, millet, and cowpeas.

Faced with floods, he now grows specific crops to ensure a good harvest. He explains: “I used to grow maize a lot, which was very profitable, but doesn’t resist flooding for long. Now I produce sorghum. If the water drains quickly, I will gain a little from the harvest.”

After the floods, Mr. Badini decided to cultivate sesame or watermelon to minimize his losses.

Abdoulaye Soré is a farmer who grows millet, sorghum, cowpeas, and many other crops. Also tired of incessant floods, he intends to grow different crops in the future.

He explains, “I have three hectares that are flooded. During the harvest, we won’t even have a third of what we should have. We are going to go for rice from now on.”

Serge Dembélé is the provincial director in charge of farming in Kossi. He says that, across the province, more than 3,300 hectares of fields are flooded this year. The farms on the banks of the Mouhoun river and its tributary, the Kossé, are the most affected.

The flooding is due to heavy rainfall. The communes of Nouna and Djibasso recorded 1,000 millimetres of rain in less than 10 days. The rivers also overflowed because they had silted up.

Herman Hien is the regional director of agriculture for Boucle du Mouhoun, the region in western Burkina Faso that contains the province of Kossi. He says floods are recurring across the region. Heavy August-September rains led to flooding across the six provinces of the region, but to varying degrees. In total, more than 4,000 hectares of crops were inundated. The province of Kossi was most affected, with 80% of its fields flooded.

The crops most affected are sorghum, millet, sesame, and especially maize. Mr. Hien advises farmers to grow rice, which both needs and tolerates more water than other crops. Other than rice, the agricultural technician recommends other crops to minimize financial losses from flooding. He explains: “Farmers can consider melon, watermelon, and vegetables when the water drains from the fields. It is possible to grow sesame, but starting in August, because it needs at least two months of rain to produce well.”

In addition to the flooded fields, some people lost their homes and other property. The Burkinabè government, through its response and support plan for vulnerable populations, is planning a dry season farming campaign to grow crops like tomato with irrigation. This will be particularly important for people affected by floods. The National Emergency Relief Council takes care of the immediate food and non-food needs of the affected populations.

The Boucle de Mouhoun region is “the granary” of Burkina Faso and normally produces 1,700,000 tonnes of cereals per year. But the floods will surely impact that forecast. Agriculture is the backbone of the region, feeding and providing income for people living in the region. And many farmers in these villages plan to switch or diversify the crops they produce to reduce losses from flooding.

This resource is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada.