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Confronted by climate change, farmers share their challenges and solutions

Over the next 25 years, temperatures in Burkina Faso are likely to rise by about one degree Celsius, and scientists are predicting an increase in rainfall and extreme rainfall events. Farmers are already seeing the impact of climate change. 

Millogo Ludovic, a farmer from Léna, Burkina Faso says: “We have indeed observed … a lot of changes. The rains which were regular and well-distributed in time and space are no longer so. The seasons are getting shorter and shorter. We have heavy rains and high winds that destroy everything in their path. Floods have been recorded this year and in past years. The soils are no longer fertile as in the past.”

In October 2022, Farm Radio International, with support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development, conducted a poll of rural people in Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, with the support of seven radio stations. On air, broadcasters invited local experts, farmers, and guests to speak their mind and share their knowledge about climate change. Listeners were then invited to join the discussion with their own thoughts, responding to poll questions via mobile phone. Radio stations broadcast three episodes, giving listeners  three opportunities to respond to questions and add their voices. 

More than 14,000 people responded to the poll, and almost 90% said they had already seen the effects of climate change.

Farmers in both Burkina Faso and Ethiopia have seen changes during their lifetime in the timing and duration of rainy seasons, the volume of rainfall, the frequency of flooding, the average temperatures, and the type and quantity of food available. 

According to farmers, the most common changes have been the amount of rain and the timing of the rainy season, followed closely by biodiversity loss. And the change in the rains has had the biggest impact on their farming. 

A farmer in the Debregenet area of Ethiopia said: “We are witnessing the effect of climate change on our ward. We used to have big forests like Chokie Forest, but due to deforestation we have lost the forest coverage and we are now experiencing drought. The rain we used to get has decreased significantly and we are faced with a scarcity of water supply for the number of farming families in the area.”

But while climate change is affecting rural farmers, they haven’t given up. More than 90% of survey respondents said they are taking steps to adapt to the effects of climate change in their communities and activities. 

They have already changed the crops they grow or the animals they keep. They have also changed the timing of planting and harvesting, as well as adopted practices to improve the soil and natural environment. Many have had to turn to different ways of earning income. 

Many farmers say their communities have also taken action to respond to climate change. They are planting native plants and trees, adopting methods to find and preserve water, taking steps to prevent natural disasters, and working together to improve farming for everyone.

Issouf Konaté from Burkina Faso said: “To deal with climate change, we must first plant trees. Better, we must promote agroforestry. By doing so, we will see that the crops we produce will be better off and food security will be ensured. The rains will still be there [if we plant trees], but if we don’t plant trees, it will be difficult.”

Rural farmers also believe it’s important to take action to protect biodiversity; 96% of survey respondents agreed. They said the most effective approach to increase biodiversity is to promote and support more nature-friendly farming and livestock practices, and to enable farmers to earn income by protecting and restoring biodiversity. 

Farmers who responded to the survey also said their governments should help them adapt to climate change. Their highest priority was improving the water supply through irrigation, along with receiving support for protecting nature and planting native trees. 

There’s also an important role for communication services. Respondents said they need good forecasts and advice about the weather as well as guidance on the best crops to grow or livestock to raise in order to adapt to changes in their environment. 

This research was led by Farm Radio International in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) ahead of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP27. Farm Radio International would like to thank all those who made this report possible. We express deep gratitude to all the farmers and broadcasters who shared their time and information with us. This research was made possible by financial support from IFAD and Global Affairs Canada.