Desertification in Yatenga, Burkino Faso, Sahel Region of Sub Saharan Africa- Case Study


  • Desert margins are most vulnerable to desertification E.g Sahel Region of Sub Saharan Africa



  • 80% of Burkino Faso live on water fed agriculture leading to over cultivation
  • Irregular rainfall: 200-600mmpa with several droughts
  • Fragile aridsols- low in nutrients and prone to lateralisation – chemical weathering which produces a wide variety in the thickness of soil
  • In Dry seasons deflation takes fertile top soil
  • Population increase = pressure
  • Pastoralism is the branch of agriculture concerned with the raising of livestock- compaction


Social Impacts:

  • 1975-1985: Population of the village Ranawa dropped by 25% due to infertile land
    • Land abandonment leads to desertification = Positive Feedback Loop
  • Many moved to Ivory Coast for work or made the dangerous journey to the UK
  • BUT since 1985 no families have left due to zai
  • Annually 20 million tonnes of cereal lost due to desertification


Mitigation and Adaptation:

  • Yacouba has been successfully using a traditional farming technique called Zaï to restore soils damaged by desertification
  • The process:
    • Agroforestry: is a land use management system in which trees or shrubs are grown around or among crops or pastureland
      • Used Contour buds and stone walls to slow rate of water flow
    • Dig deep holes in summer months to prevent duricrust formation and hold any surface runoff in wet seasons- also helps raise water table
    • Termites in holes break down organic matter and turn over and aerate soil


Alternatives Futures:

Positive Negative
·         Success of Zai

o   Since 1985 no families have left due to zai

o   30 acres of degraded land now have forest growing on it in 20 years

·         SPAIN: Andalusia and Almeria – driest region in Europe BUT Spain is Europe’s biggest producer of strawberries, 95% come from Andalusia due to drip irrigation

·         2.5 million facing starvation in Burkino Faso after drought = soil desertified and dry with duricrust = Impossible to grow crops

·         SPAIN: Drip irrigation: : investment has reduced water waste and promotes efficient water resource use and limits demands BUT 40% illegally irrigated using water from black market



2 EXAMPLE ESSAY PLAN: To what extent is soil fertility the most significant factor in food security

INTRO: Food security definition BUT soil varies depending on climate BUT we can adapt and mitigate

P1: MOST IMPORTANT: 2.5 million facing starvation in Burkino Faso after drought = soil desertified and dry with duricrust = Impossible to grow crops

P2: BUT adapted: Zai-digging holes with termites and nutrients in dry seasons and allowing to flood = SUCCESS: 20 hectares of land made productive in 10 years

P3: Supply of artificial fertilisers most important: USA only 1-2% of phosphors and potassium reserves left due to exploitation – BUT would not need fertiliser is soil fertile

CONCLUDE: Pop + = Urbanisation = Land degradation = – Food production as in South Sudan

BUT Boserup = Innovation as seen in Green Revolution and GM crops