A landlocked country of west Africa, Burkina Faso lies within the Sahel, a semi-arid transition zone between the Sahara desert to the north and the more humid regions to the south. The gently undulating landscape of much of the country is also one of the world’s harshest environments, highly vulnerable to soil infertility, climatic variability, unexpected dry spells and drought. The country also struggles with inadequate infrastructure.
USC Canada supports programs in 12 communities in Soum Province in the northern part of the country, exposed to the harshest climatic conditions. In the past few years, regular droughts have been exacerbated by a changing climate. Beginning in March 2012, the arrival of 70,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Mali also contributed to increased levels of food insecurity in the midst of a food crisis. Rising land tenure insecurity for households and in particular rural women, limits their participation in decision-making.
National gender policies and the cross-border impacts of the conflict in Mali are also significant challenges.
USC Canada in Burkina Faso
USC Canada’s Seeds of Survival program is working towards strengthening local seed supply systems, rehabilitating degraded soils, supporting farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange and promoting sustainable biodiversity-based agriculture, to enhance food security and reduce hunger in smallholder farming communities.
Community Seed Banks have been established in 10 villages. This will help ensure families have seed to plant despite poor harvests.
In Soum Province, USC Canada’s programming also strengthens community seed supply systems through on-farm seed conservation. We support vegetable gardens, soil and water conservation and environmental rehabilitation. Vegetable gardens provide additional sources of food to enhance family nutrition while land rehabilitation activities improves growing conditions.
Continuing investment in this work has made significant improvements but more work is needed to diversify and adapt crop and seed varieties to withstand the dramatic effects of climate change.
APN Sahel has launched a participatory process to establish a Community Seed Bank network based on lessons learned from the USC Canada supported program in neighbouring Dounetza, Mali. New village women’s groups have also been created and strengthened through financial and material support. Income generation activities included market gardening, production of minor crops and the transformation of food products for sale.
Our Local Partner: APN Sahel
Richard Minnougou, Executive Secretary of APN Sahel, at the International Agroecology Forum in Mali, 2015. (Photo: Sylvie Perras)
APN Sahel (Association pour la protection de la nature au Sahel) is known for its innovative, collaborative and participatory approach to working with farmers to combat desertification and rehabilitate degraded lands. The protection of the environment and increasing women’s leadership and access to resources is at the core of their mission.
APN Sahel has strong presence in the field and engages directly with communities. During the food crisis in 2012, APN Sahel worked closely with Village Development Committees from 10 participating villages to assess household grain shortages and identify vulnerable households.
Richard Minnougou, Executive Secretary of APN Sahel, won a Presidential Award of Merit for his personal commitment and accomplishments in 2010.
His first link with USC Canada was in 2001 when he participated in a Seeds of Survival training workshop held in Zambia. From that time on, he has worked to integrate activities on crop diversification and secure seed supply systems into land rehabilitation work.