Without rapid action this beautiful landscape in Burkino Faso will soon be a distant memory.

The effects of desertification are already being felt in Burkino Faso, causing land fertility to decrease and flooding to become more common.

By Roberta Persia

UNV Volunteer in Burkino Faso

At the 9th meeting of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), burkinabé civil society organisations reiterated its commitment to shape an internationally-agreed strategy for sustainable land management. With other NGO Networks from France (centre of actions and international achievements), Mali (IRIMS YEELEN) and Niger (CNODD) SPONG established the Réseau Sahel Désertification (Sahel Desertification Network, RESEAD) a synergistic framework for pooling of positive experiences and leading a more visible advocacy.

Desertification still is a major challenge, which has enormous implications on socio-economic issues. African civil society strives to form solutions and processes of implementation to combat desertification. Solutions, which are necessary and urgent. The Director of the UN Institute for Natural Resources in Africa (based in Ghana), M. Harmsen, said that if soil conditions continue to decline in Africa, nearly 75% of the continent could come to rely on food aid by 2025 in order to combat widespread food shortages. To avoid such a scenario, it is necessary to tackle drought with water management and hydraulic technology projects at the community level. This needs to be paired with an overarching public awareness and information campaign among farmers.

Stopping the advancing desert rests with NGOs who are poised with the community based contacts and know how for community mobilisation. In the context of REPAOC (Réseau de Plateformes d’ONG de l’Afrique de l’Ouest), SPONG provides the NGO platforms in West Africa with a shared understanding of the practical measures necessary to fight against land degradation. This advocacy document created the definition of a consensual plan promoting sustainable land management (SLM), a combination of technologies, policies and activities that integrated environmental concerns into the efforts to increase production, aiming at reducing the production risk, protecting natural resources and preserving soil and water.

In October 2005, the 7th Contracting Parties to the UNCCD was launched in Nairobi called TerrAfrica, a partnership between government, civil society, private sector and donors. This partnership strives to create a conducive environment for financing appropriate resource management strategies at a national level, in order to maximize the economic and social benefits of land while strengthening the ecological support. As one of 4 pilot countries part of TerrAfrica, Burkina Faso was the first Francophone country of West Africa to experience multilateral cooperation for the establishment of a Strategic Framework for Investment in SLM. It will now participate in the implementation of a consistent information system of knowledge management; leveraging ICT and learning networks, aimed at improving the decision making through comparable statistics.

Burkinabé NGOs are already addressing such a challenge. One successful project run by Sahel Solidarité in the Bokin area (about 65 km north of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso), renewed the communication technology used in water, sanitation and hygiene campaigns by introducing digital photography and video projections. Another groundbreaking project is the recently inaugurated first community radio station of the Province of Boulgou in the region of Central East, settled in Zabré by the Association PagLaYiri together with the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD).

The role of NGOs in this process will be to contribute to all sessions of the upcoming Global Forum on Sustainable Development, which was held in Ouagadougou from October 9 to 11. This will be central in analyzing opportunities and environmental constraints at the social and economic levels arising from climate change. It will also be an opportunity to draft local, national and regional strategies that attempt to preserve natural resources through sustainable means.


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