Country study Burkina Faso 
Biodiversity 

3.4 THREATS

The threats concerned in this chapter are constraints and trends, which impede the objective of conservation and rational or sustainable use of biological diversity. Those endangering biological diversity in Burkina Faso are in general of climatic and human origins. On this specific level, there are many threats, which also impede efforts of conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity.

Because of the objet of the impact of such and such a threat, this may be considered as a general threat applying to all the biological diversity, or as specific harming one or a few species.

3.4.1 GENERAL THREATS

Biological diversity in Burkina has been subjected since the 70s to major threats, which disturb ecosystems and cause loss of species.

3.4.1.1 Drought and desiccation

Drought is defined as a period of one or two years whose rainfall is less than the average (TOULMIN C, 1993). Scientists think droughts have always been a tragic and concomitant phenomenon of life in the Sahel. Thus, drought periods have marked the history of Sahelian countries. Their resulting duration, scope and damages have constantly increased in the recent 100 years (LEISINGER K. M./SCHMITT K., 1992).

Droughts have disrupted the equilibrium of many ecosystems and led to devastating effects on croplands and cattle. Today, the consequences felt express themselves through both economic impoverishment of populations and the impoverishment of biological diversity.

The droughts from 1968 to 1973, with a volume of rains of 15 to 40% less than the average, resulted in losses of harvests and cattle, aggravating at the same time the competition for land use. Plant and animal production systems have had to undergo modifications in order to adapt to the situation. Farmers abandoned their traditional varieties with often a long cycle to adopt new varieties with shorter cycle. Therefore, an impoverishment of the genetic patrimony was being done unwillingly. Thus, many cultivated varieties of plant species were abandoned or lost. The droughts have often led to the consumption of seeds following famines they cause.

The transformation of natural spaces (habitats of forestry or aquatic fauna) leads ipso facto to the decline, even the extinction of some species of fauna dependent of these milieux. The disruption in land use leads to the displacement of populations towards zones, which are relatively favourable to agricultural and pastoral activities.

As to desiccation phenomena they are translated into the decrease in the groundwater table, the drying up of streams and the death of the vegetation, particularly of ligneous species. CAMILLA TOULMIN defines desiccation as an aridity process resulting from a dry period whose duration is termed in decades. It leads inevitably to the loss of ligneous and herbaceous vegetation, the drying up of some water bodies, the decrease in the level of the groundwater table, etc.

The droughts of the 70s and the persistent irregularity of rainwater in recent years have clearly uncovered the need to have production systems adapted to climatic variations and capable of producing the minimum required. In these conditions, it is imperative to have a wide range of species, which are more productive and more resistant to drought.

3.4.1.2 Demographic growth and population movements

In 1960 the population of Burkina was 4 300 000 inhabitants, while in 1991 it was estimated at 9 190 000 inhabitants. The significant consequences resulting from this important demographic growth are, for example, the increase in land pressure and the rise in the demand for food, clothes, housing, health care, education and employment. In Burkina Faso, the satisfaction of the economic needs of the populations mainly comes from the exploitation of biological resources.

3.4.1.3 Bush fires

In Burkina Faso, bush fires constitute one of the main threats to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. These fires are customary (as part of customary ceremonies), criminal (intentional) or accidental. Every year, tens of thousands of hectares of forests are destroyed by fire. If the phenomenon is not quickly controlled, all the expected objectives from the protection and the development of natural formations in favour of sustainable development will be compromised.

3.4.1.4 Degradation of soils

Soil degradation is a notion that can be related to the extent of soil exploitation. In effect, it is caused by the inappropriate methods of land use in careless delicate or fragile ecological conditions. Like any production means, soil deteriorates and needs to be recapitalised. Yet, in the case of Burkina Faso, usually when soil deteriorates, it does not benefit from inputs to enable its restoration, hence the aggravation of the process. Besides, the phenomenon of desertification and overpopulation, which result in the scarcity of croplands leads to the reduction or abandonment of the fallow period. All these realities no longer permit the biological diversity to renew itself as it should.

3.4.1.5 Policies of natural resources management

Policies of natural resources management aim at attaining expected results in order to ensure the well-being of populations. However, some development policies do not comply with the concern of sustainable development so much sought today.

In effect, in a country with limited resources like Burkina Faso, there are often tendencies to meet immediate objectives at the detriment of biological diversity:

  • the cultivation of yam and cotton which always need rich soils, explaining in this way the massive and shifting clearing, which does not save plant species, disrupt ecosystems, render vulnerable the fauna the latter shelter;
  • the abandonment of local varieties and breeds of cereals and domestic species in favour of the more productive and exotic ones.

At the institutional and legal levels, there are also the following situations which do not facilitate the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity:

  • since land belongs to the State and not to the person using it, the latter does not carry out sustainable investments, such as plantations, fearing to be disapproved one day;
  •  traditional land system, based on land concession, particularly temporary loans, constitutes a system of land insecurity for the beneficiary.

At the strategic level, there are two main threats on biological diversity. They are:

  • the lack of a true environmental education Programme which effectively mobilises all the population for the protection of the environment;
  • the lack of knowledge concerning the endemism of flora and fauna specifies, which does not permit to consider specific actions in favour of those that would be threatened.

3.4.2 SPECIFIC THTREATS

As underlined earlier, specific threats in our case are those whose impact concerns only one or a few components of biological diversity.

3.4.2.1 Specific threats to flora

The following non-exhaustive list gives the specific threats to flora:

  • overexploitation of raw materials of plant origin;
  • overgrazing resulting from excessive grazing of fodder and trampling of the herbaceous stratum by cattle;
  • uncontrolled agro-pastoral practices;
  • the introduction of invading species which in the long run prevent the development of other species (case of water hyacinths and attacks from parasites);
  • shifting cultivation which calls for new clearing as the farm becomes less productive;
  • pollution of water due to the use of pesticides, which leads to the mortality of some aquatic plant species;
  • excessive logging;
  • genetic erosion following the abandonment of local varieties;
  • silting of water bodies.
3.4.2.2 Specific threats to fauna

The specific threats to fauna are as follows :

  • poaching, with as adverse effect the insecurity of officers in charge of the protection of fauna;
    overexploitation of synergetic and halieutic resources;
  • genetic erosion through the abandonment of local breeds;
  • practices susceptible, in the medium or long term, of leading to a significant loss in the diversity of domestic animals; it is the adoption of new breeds of big size (e.g.: sheep, goats, hens) at the detriment of local breeds which are naturally more adapted to local conditions, and the preference of males as compared to females for practical reasons or conveniences (e.g. : donkeys, horses, dogs, etc.);
  • lack of gene banks of domestic animals;
  • decline or extinction of species of aquatic fauna resulting from the decrease in water quantity;
  • destruction of or attacks on habitats;
  • silting of water bodies;
  • pollution of water due to the use of pesticides, which leads to the mortality of some aquatic species.

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