CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
The national monograph on biological diversity represents the
foundation for the development of national strategies and action plans
concerning the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of
its constituent components and the promotion of the fair and equitable
sharing of benefits arising out of the utilisation of genetic
resources. Thus, the country study is a reference document, which
enables to measure the actual capacities of effective management of
biological resources in order to improve management approaches.
Moreover, it is a didactic tool of reference. However, the country
study will have to be updated as new important data on biological
diversity is made available.
This study presents the natural environment of Burkina Faso,
compiles the ecological, biological and economic data arising out of
the country's biological resources, identifies the threats to
renewable resources of the environment and, finally, puts forward the
options required to reverse the negative trends on biological
diversity. And to contribute to further the knowledge on biological
diversity, it was necessary to deal, in the first place, with the
notion of biological diversity in this study.
1.1 BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
The notion of biological diversity
The general public is very little familiar with the term
"biological diversity". Indeed, there are many people who
are wondering what biological diversity is. It was not until the end
of the seventies that the notion of biological diversity began to
become a concern in informed circles.
Yet, hardly time goes by without man benefiting from the good deeds
of biological diversity. For example, the foods deriving from plants
and animals, clothes made from cotton and silk, furniture made from
wood, drugs manufactured from plant and animal extracts, etc., are
good deeds from biological diversity.
The word "diversity" designates the number, the variety
and variability of living organisms (OCDE, 1996. Préserver la
The term "biology" deals with the manifestations of
condition in the form of life, such as genes (from DNA to gametes),
plants (from algae to baobab tree), animals (from the virus to the
elephant or whale). Biology also deals with reactions to organisms,
the ones with the others (eg. : heat breaks down organisms, which can
lead to the birth of other lives).
Ecology deals with the living conditions of living organisms and
with the relationships they establish between themselves. The result
of these conditions and relationships constitutes a unique functional
system known as ecosystem.
The notion of "biological diversity" designates the
varieties and/or the variability of genes, species and ecosystems.
Thus, the Convention on biological diversity defines "biological
diversity" in Article 2 as the "variability of living
organisms of any origin, including, among others, terrestrial and
marine ecosystems, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological
complexes they belong to; this comprises the diversity within species
and between species".
Biological diversity is divided into three main components. They
- Genetic diversity : hereditary variability contained in genes
(eg. : heredity related to form, size and colour of plants and
animals); biotechnology, genetic improvement and the extraction of
medicinal substances from plants and animals are made possible
thanks to the genetic materiel the latter contains;
- Diversity of species : taxonomic differentiation of plants and
animals, including micro-organisms, as well as the
differentiations within species (varieties, breeds);
- Diversity of ecosystems : variety of ecological systems
contributing to maintain forms of life (e.g. : ecosystems of
forests, mountains, savannahs, marines and fresh water
The number of the constituent components of biological diversity
known today is very little as compared with the diversity of what
exists on our planet. According to scientists, only 1.7 million (OCDE
, 1996 : Préserver la diversité biologique, p.20) of species are
known in the world out of a total of 12 million estimated nowadays.
Therefore, man totally ignores all the services that the rest of the
unknown species may supply him, whereas, it has been established that
man derives from biological diversity the essential part of products
for his life.
1.2 BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES
The Convention distinguishes between biological diversity (see
definition above) and "biological resources" which are
genetic resources, organisms or components of these organisms,
populations, or any other biotic component of ecosystems with actual
or potential use or value for humanity. By way of illustration, the
following examples can be given : millet, rice, potato, yam, shea
kernel, nere seeds, crocodile, tilapia, antelope, hare, ox, hen, plant
and animal varieties and breeds, forest, savannah, river, grasslands,
fallows, etc. A constituent component of biological diversity (a
species for example) which man ignores the use in his milieu may be a
biological resource elsewhere, or become one later in the same place.
This is the reason why it is necessary to safeguard all the components
of biological diversity.
1.3 THE IMPORTANCE OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY AND BIOLOGICAL
1.3.1 THE IMPORTANCE OF BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
Biological diversity is very important for humanity, because the
survival of mankind depends on it. In general, the services supplied
by biological diversity can be sub-divided into five categories :
- The production of consumer goods (food, clothes, furniture,
- The provision of medicinal products (plant and animal extracts);
- The maintenance of plant and animal life (oxygen, climate,
- Socio-cultural values (taboos, shrines, tales and folktales,
customary symbols etc.);
- Other services (scientific, technological, educational,
recreational and aesthetic uses, etc.).
As far as the three components of biological diversity are
concerned, the following examples of services can be given :
- genes : their manipulation allows the development of new
varieties, the increase in the quality and yield of species and
the increase in the resistance of some plants and animals to
- species : cereals, fruits, vegetables, tubers, animal and plant
proteins contribute to maintain life;
- ecosystems : they contribute to the regulation of the climate
and the load capacity in the natural environment keep ecological
balance, improve air and water quality, eliminate wastes, favour
the production and reproduction of species.
In short, biological diversity is the foundation of sustainable
development. The following development shows by way of illustration
the importance of biological diversity for sustainable development by
- Environment : regulation of water and the atmosphere, soil
protection, soil enrichment;
- Agriculture :genetic material for the improvement of cultivated
plants, biotechnology, keeping humidity, prevention of erosion;
- Forestry : genetic material, habitats for a great variety of
species which can be exploited as forestry products;
- Livestock raising : genetic material;
- Harvesting : gathering, hunting, game ranching;
- Energy : water regulation, production of fuel wood;
- Water supply : water regulation, infiltration of rain water;
- Industry : source of genetic and biological raw materials for
- Public health : medicinal products, climate regulation, living
- Teaching and research : nature, flora, fauna, genetic material;
- Art : handicraft;
- Culture and religion : rites, cultural and religious values.
The main importance of biological diversity lies not only at the
level of the supply of consumer goods, but also in terms of the
varieties of these goods. Indeed, man's needs in food can be found in
various products; for example starch is more concentrated in cereals,
sugar is provided by sugar cane, fats are plenty in groundnuts, and
vitamins are more concentrated in fruits. As a result, the diversity
of food products is necessary in order to ensure a balanced diet.
Moreover, it must be underlined that biological diversity abounds
with constituent components whose utility we ignore for the time
being. As part of the implementation of the Convention on Biological
Diversity, more efforts are being made to improve the knowledge of
biological diversity, which will undoubtedly permit mankind to
discover new services this invaluable capital may supply to it.
1.3.2 THE IMPORTANCE OF BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES
As defined earlier, biological resources are the products of
biological diversity directly exploitable and/or profitable for man.
Development depends on biological resources.
In effect, according to statistics, the economy of developing
countries is based by more than 80% on biological resources, while
that of developed countries is dependent on them by 45%. In order to
illustrate this fact, the following examples of kinds of activities
depending on biological diversity and which have obvious economic
benefits may be cited : farming, market gardening, livestock raising,
cash crops, gathering, timber exploitation, hunting, fishing,
sight-seeing tourism, animal traction, biotechnology, the use of plant
or animal substances in the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacopoeia,
Moreover, biological resources are particularly important at local,
national and sub-regional levels. It is an advantage when the
biological resources at one's disposal permit to enjoy privileges as
compared with the others. In this respect, the following examples may
- all soils, all zones or all regions are not good for the growing
or raising of all species;
- most species are specific to well determined regions, zones or
- the presence of eatable plant or animal species but hardly used
represents an alternative in time of famine or food shortage.
The presence and abundance of biological resources are therefore a
main factor of development, particularly, for a country like Burkina
Faso whose economy is based essentially on agriculture.
1.4 COUNTRY STUDIES ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
1.4.1 INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
The Nairobi Conference of May 1992 on the adoption of measures
agreed on concerning the Convention of Biological Diversity, took
resolution 2, whereby it acknowledged the importance of country
studies on biological diversity as part of determining priorities to
develop strategies and action plans in view of the effective
enforcement of the Convention. Therefore, article 6 of the Convention
on Biological Diversity (CBD) makes it an obligation for each
contracting Party to develop national strategies, plans or Programmes
aimed at ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of biological
The object of country studies is to collect and analyse biological,
economic and social data which will permit to define the framework the
development of national strategies and action plans is part of
More specifically, the country study compiles up-to-date data on the
components of biological resources, and on ecosystems, assesses from
rational bases the basic costs and requirements for the conservation
of biological diversity and sustainable use of its constituent
elements, and proposes actions in order to arrive at the effective
enforcement of the terms of the Convention.
The indispensable activities for the preparation of the country
study are data collection on:
- constituent components of biological diversity;
- importance of biological ressources and their diversity;
- socio-economic issues;
- costs and current benefits related to biological resources;
- determination of weaknesses in terms of data;
- determination of main threats and required solutions.
At the level of existing institutions, the country study helps,
therefore, to improve the definition and effective planning of
actions, as well as the rational and sustainable management capacities
of biological resources. It is a renewable tool, that is to say, it
has to be improved periodically as the evaluation of undertaken
measures are made and new data are made available.
Since the big droughts of the 1970's, Burkina Faso developed
strategies, action plans and Programmemes destined to rehabilitate a
socio-economic and ecological balance susceptible of contributing to
food self-sufficiency and to permit to begin the sustainable
In Burkina Faso, activities undertaken in terms of knowledge and
management of biological diversity are usually isolated, so that the
results deriving from them remain scattered and ignored, while the
Convention on Biological Diversity stresses a reliable, concerted and
global management of biological resources.
Among the main current political orientations concerning
agricultural development on which the country's economy depends, there
are two options directly applying to biological diversity. These are:
- the increase in productivity through the dissemination of
intensive production technologies;
- the fight against the deterioration of natural resources by
particularly taking required measures in land domain and by giving
more responsibility to grassroots actors.
Burkina Faso ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity on
September 2, 1993. This tool entered into force in December 1993.
Since then, the country undertook the enforcement of the terms of this
Convention, including the development of national strategies and
action plans on biological diversity. Thus, the Permanent Secretariat
of the National Council for the Management of the Environment
(SP/CONAGESE) was established, with as main mission the promotion of
the integration of the fundamental principles of the protection of the
environment into the economic, social and cultural development process
of Burkina Faso. Therefore, CONAGESE's permanent secretary
co-ordinates and participates in the implementation of conventions and
agreements related to the environment. For this purpose, a Technical
Committee was set up under its aegis with the responsibility of
co-ordinating actions for implementing the Convention on Biological
With the support of the United Nations Programme for the
Environment (UNPE), Burkina Faso obtained a financing from the Global
Environment Facility (FEM) to undertake the project "Élaboration
de la monographie sur la diversité biologique du Burkina Faso"
(Country Study of Burkina Faso's Biological Diversity). The object of
this project is to collect and analyse biological, economic and social
data to serve as the basis for the development of national strategies
and actions, as well as sectoral plans on biological diversity.
1.4.3 DATA COLLECTION METHODOLOGY
The present report is a summary of the sectoral studies undertaken
on the country study on Burkina Faso's biological diversity. It takes
into account, on the one hand, UNDP's main guidelines concerning
country studies on biological diversity and, on the other hand, the
methodology recommended in the report of the international expert
following the launching workshop of the development process of the
aforesaid country study.
Information collection actually began in February 1996, the
activities concerning the development of the drafting of this document
started in January of the same year. Data were collected through :
- visits and discussions with officials and technicians of
governmental institutions and international
- stitutions working in the domain of the conservation and/or use
of biological diversity;
- visits to Non-Governmental and private structures interested in
- interviews with private resource people;
- consultation of documents (books, publications, papers, activity
reports, doctorate theses, study reports);
- consultation of national collections.
The collection of data was supported by studies on the following
themes: socio-economy, policy and strategy concerning the environment,
ethnobotanics, ligneous forestry plants, herbaceous plants,
phytogenetic resources, agriculture and livestock raising, plant
reproduction of domesticated species, environmental legislation,
entomology, aquatic plants, wildlife, aquatic fauna, land use,
ecology, microbiology, geographical information system. The list of
authors, as well as the tittles of reports issued, is presented in
This report is the summary of these studies and the related
observations made by three (3) regional workshops, one (1) national
workshop and resource people and competent technical services.
The data collected through the thematic studies are certainly not
exhaustive because of the dispersal of information in different
structures. Moreover, some data are not up-to-date (e. g.: the data
about censuses are from 1991, those on migrations from 1992). However,
other data collected are relatively recent; it is the case of the
natural vegetation map and land use (1995).