From Oases to Landscapes of Success: Accelerating Agroecological Innovation in Burkina Faso
This policy brief is adapted from a chapter of Food First Books’ forthcoming book Fertile Ground: Scaling Agroecology from the Ground Up, edited by Steve Brescia, Executive Director of Groundswell International.
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The Eastern Region of Burkina Faso is one of its most economically marginalized areas, and recent studies have estimated that 43.9 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. People who live there are caught in a vicious cycle of degrading natural resources, declining soil fertility, decreasing food production, and hunger. Food shortages are frequent, particularly during the “lean season” between harvests and are made worse by drought. To survive, many families skip meals. The poorest 30 percent of smallholder farmers often sell their animals and other household assets during these periods in order to buy food from local markets. When they don’t have anything to sell, they obtain high-interest loans from moneylenders. This asset stripping leaves households even more vulnerable for the next lean season or drought. Most of the rural population of eastern Burkina Faso, as is also true in other parts of the Sahel, is unable to farm their way out of this vicious cycle by relying on practices (such as fallowing) that had worked in the past.
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In this challenging context, farmers, local NGOs, and agricultural researchers in Burkina Faso have developed a variety of viable agroecological solutions. Over the last 30 years, they have tested and adapted a number of effective agroecological farming practices—some new, others traditional—that have proven capable of restoring soil fertility and increasing food production for smallholder farmers.