Country study Burkina Faso 
Biodiversity 

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 diversité biologique).

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 are :

  • 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 ecosystems).

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 RESOURCES

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, shelter, etc.);
  • The provision of medicinal products (plant and animal extracts);
  • The maintenance of plant and animal life (oxygen, climate, etc.);
  • 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 diseases;
  • 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 sector.

  • 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 industrial products;
  • Public health : medicinal products, climate regulation, living environment;
  • 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, etc.

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 be retained:

  • 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 habitats;
  • 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 diversity.

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 (PNUE,1993).
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.

1.4.2 NATIONAL CONTEXT

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 development process.

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 Diversity.

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 biological diversity;
  • 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 appendix 1.

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).

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