Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in the West African Sahel, includes sparse and dry forests, woodlands, wooded and shrub savannas, and a large desert area to the North. The country relies heavily on agriculture, yet faces shrinking arable land and increasing soil degradation. Enhancing factors such as climate change and rising demand for land and natural resources in general are creating a downward cycle from which forest degradation appears as one of the particularly challenging consequences. It is also the first step towards soil degradation, which reduces the area of arable land, further increasing the pressures on the remaining land and forest resources.
An integrated approach
In such landscapes, climate change mitigation and adaptation policies are closely related, and only an integrated approach combining all aspects of sustainable forest and land management can reverse this trend.
Gassan, one of the 32 communes supported by the FIP, is representative of what is happening throughout the country. Most families in Gassan rely on agriculture, but also woodworking, commercial hunting, and fruit harvesting. For some, forest-based activities offer a way out of poverty. In addition, households use plants, seeds and animals from natural forests and woodlands for food, energy, medicine, fodder, housing, furniture, among other essentials of their daily living. Forests also act as important windbreaks to limit erosion, soil carbon producers which restores soil fertility, facilitators of pollination, and filtering agents that maintain water quality.
Strengthening local governance to avoid conflicts and overexploitation of natural resources
Unfortunately, the numerous services that natural resources offer have often led to overlapping rights generating conflicts and overexploitation of these commons. This can only be resolved through strong forest and land governance.
With this in mind, Burkina Faso is currently developing a strategy to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) based on four pillars:
- Improving land use planning;
- Securing land rights;
- Improving the management of agro-sylvo-pastoral systems;
- Building capacity, adapting the policies, and promoting good governance.
In Gassan, as in all 32 communes supported by the program, the government seeks to strengthen local governance through a participatory approach, where local users of the natural resource base discuss and agree on how to better manage their landscape. To facilitate this process, the FIP piloted a three-step approach that can be replicated in the remaining communes of the country as well as other countries facing similar natural resource-based issues.
The first step relied on intensive participatory discussions using the Terristories© methodology (developed by the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (Cirad)), an innovative approach based on role play that brings together all local actors (farmers, pastoralists, forest dependent users, women, youth, etc.) to discuss issues openly and forge agreements capable of accommodating the various interests. The Securing Land Rights at Scale through Participatory Role-Play research paper explains in detail the process as followed in the FIP.
Setting up the participatory process was a challenge. It involved selecting participants, assessing land tenure issues, identifying participant’s challenges and concerns, listing their propositions both in terms of hard and soft investments, and translating these into a coherent municipal vision based on a zoning plan and a set of REDD+ investments. Both outputs were then endorsed by the local authority.
The second step, currently under implementation, involves supporting each commune as they develop their own Integrated Development Project for REDD+ (PDIC/REDD+). Each PDIC/REDD+ is based on the zoning plan and the REDD+ investments list previously developed, and details the practical arrangements as well as the timeline for the different activities to be implemented. The idea is to give municipalities a practical tool to help them realize their vision of a sustainable landscape.
The final step corresponds to the implementation of the pre-planned activities and investments coherently detailed in the PDIC/REDD+ document.
As a result of this process, all 32 communes will have designed their own specific strategy to improve their natural resources management, thereby contributing to reducing forest degradation while fostering economic development and limiting the effects on climate change.
The following video shows how Burkina Faso’s REDD+ National Investment Plan supports an integrated and multi-sectoral approach to address the direct and indirect drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.
The documentary featured is part of a series on forest livelihoods in selected countries with dynamic forest and REDD+ activities including Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Liberia, and Mozambique.
This piece was originally published on World Bank's Nasikiliza blog.