Taking matters into their own hands: West African farmers brace against drought

28 November 2011 | News story

Climate change means the drylands of West Africa are likely to become more arid and less productive. In the Sahel region, which has been plagued by drought in recent decades, farmers are using natural methods to boost their resilience.

In South Niger and the Central Plateau of Burkina Faso farmers earn a living mainly from the production of millet and sorghum as well as livestock. These farmers are using simple practices whereby existing vegetation on degraded land is managed and protected.

In Niger, farmers are helping to protect natural vegetation, allowing seeds found in the top soil, in livestock manure or in bird droppings to germinate.

In Burkina Faso, efforts are underway to rehabilitate barren, crusted land using contour bunds—ridges and ditches made of soil, dug across the slope along the contour—and improved planting pits. These simple techniques have helped increase the volume of water available for crops and improved soil fertility.

Improvements in the rural landscape have enabled hundreds of thousands of poor households living on US$ 2 or less a day, to diversify their livelihoods and increase their incomes, improving their resilience to climate change and boosting food security. They have also played a critical role in addressing chronic hunger among families who are at the mercy of unpredictable harvests.

This is just one of the case studies being promoted by the Ecosystems and Livelihoods Adaptation Network (ELAN), a global network including IUCN that works to enhance poor and marginalized people's resilience to the impacts of climate change.

For more information see the ELAN website.