Archive for the ‘Burkina Faso’ Category


Protecting “The Last Farmer” from Globalization

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By Leah Baines

Throughout the world, agriculture from small farmers provides food for 70 percent of the population, while industrial agriculture only supplies 30 percent. But, ironically, most of the 2.8 million people living in poverty around the world are farmers. The documentary “The Last Farmer” highlights how small-scale farmers are suffering from poverty as a result of globalization and the growing shift towards industrial agriculture.

"The Last Farmer" highlights the lives of small-scale farmers in developing countries. (Image credit: "The Last Farmer")

Directed by Giuliano Girelli, the documentary follows three farmers and their families in Indonesia, Guatemala, and Burkina Faso throughout their day. It draws attention to the struggles they face from lack of agricultural diversity, diminishing soil fertility, food insecurity, and decreasing incomes. The video also includes commentary from experts about the effects of globalization all over the world.

“Agriculture [has] the word culture in there, right? It’s actually doing something in a cultural way,” said Hira Jhamtani, an environmental activist in Indonesia. “But we have made it into an industry…the multinational companies are taking over the role of small farmers. Everywhere…whether it’s Europe, whether it’s in the US or whether it’s in Indonesia, family farmers are being displaced by big companies.”



Nourishing the Planet TV: Banking Today to Conserve Plants for the Future

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In this week’s episode, Nourishing the Planet intern Julia Eder discusses the Kew Millennium Seed Bank, which is collecting seeds from endangered plant species to conserve plant diversity and to find crops that are resistant to global threats such as climate change and water scarcity.



To read more about the Kew Millennium Seed Bank, see: Innovation of the Week: Banking Today to Conserve Plants for the Future.

Holiday offer: To purchase a copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet at a 50 percent discountplease click HERE and enter code SW1150. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Shea: For people and planet

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By Kim Kido 

Shea (Vitellaria paradoxa, nilotica) is one of few trees that can withstand the harsh, semi-arid climate of the Sudan and Guinean savannas and the Sahel. Hardy, drought-resistant, and with fireproof bark, the uses of the shea tree are numerous and ancient, dating back to the 1300s.

Woman processing shea kernels into butter. (Photo credit: TREE AID)

Tools and coffins are made out of the wood, while the wastewater from processing seeds acts as a pesticide against weevils. The tree provides forage for sheep and goats as well as food for people. The sweet pulp of the fruit, similar to an avocado, is eaten fresh, providing a valuable source of nutrition early in the rainy season when food can be scarce. And, the tree’s flowers can be added to salads.

The shea tree also provides many environmental benefits. Farmers often intercrop the shea tree with cereal grains where they help to prevent wind erosion, provide shade, and contribute organic matter to the soil.

The uses of the shea nut are most widely known and offer the highest economic value. The seed contains a kernel that is eaten fresh, roasted like almonds, or processed to extract shea butter. Shea butter is traditionally used as a waterproofing material for houses, a cosmetic, a primary source of vegetable fat in cooking, and as a medicine for treating various skin diseases, arthritis, and other ailments.



Innovation of the Week: Banking Today to Conserve Plants for the Future

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By Janeen Madan

According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, a quarter of the world’s known plant species—some 60,000 to 100,000 species—are threatened with extinction.

The Millennium Seed Bank is a global network of organizations that bank seeds of rare and threatened plants. (Photo credit: Andrew McRobb, RBG Kew)

And even though plants may not receive as much attention as endangered animals, like polar bears or tigers, they’re extremely important. Plants are a vital source of food, they can help stabilize the climate, and they also provide shelter, medicines and fuel.

The Kew Millennium Seed Bank (MSB), located at Wakehurst Place, in West Sussex, U.K., is working with its global network of partner organizations to bank seeds of rare and threatened plants. With 120 partner institutions in over 50 countries, MSB is the largest plant conservation project in the world. In 2009, the bank achieved its target of collecting seeds from 10 percent of the world’s plant species. Its next goal is to secure 25 percent by 2020.

The bank was started with the simple idea of collecting and conserving the world’s wild plant species. Banking seeds of useful plants is the first step in finding varieties that can help confront pressing global problems—from water scarcity, to deforestation, to restoring endangered habitats. “As seed conservationists, our role is not only to conserve plant diversity, but to make it available to as wide a range of users to enable both innovation and adaptation,” says Paul Smith, head of the Seed Bank in the U.K.



Tree Grape: Form, Function, and Flavor of a Grape on an African Tree

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By Matt Styslinger

Tree grapes (Lannea microcarpa) are actually in the same family as mangoes, cashews, and pistachios, but they look and taste more like grapes. And although they do not grow on vines, tree grapes hang from trees in grape-like bunches.

The African tree grape, although more like a plum in structure, looks and tastes like a grape (Photo credit: B. Belem, Plant Resources of Tropical Africa).

Tree grapes are often sold in both city street markets and along roadsides in West Africa. In Burkina Faso, the tree is cultivated commercially on a small scale and the trees can be seen in and around villages. The fruit can be eaten fresh or dried like raisins for longer-term storage. The fruit makes an excellent jam, can be made into wine, and the pulp fermented into a potent alcoholic drink. The tree’s young leaves are nutritious—18 percent protein and 5 percent minerals—and are eaten by both people and livestock. An edible and water-soluble gum can also be extracted from the tree.

The tree has important non-food uses as well. The seed kernel is high in oil, which is sometimes extracted and used to make soap and skin lotions. The fibrous bark can be made into rope, and a dark red-brown dye is also extracted from it. The bark is also used to treat diarrhea. Cloth dyed with this tree is often associated with healing, because of the medicinal properties of the bark and the blood-red color. The leaves, bark, roots, and fruits of this tree are applied to treat blisters, boils, sore throat, and rheumatism. The flowers are very attractive to bees, and beekeepers often hang their hives among the branches of this tree.



Sweet detar: Food, Fragrance, Fodder, and More

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By Kim Kido

From food to fragrance, virtually no part of the sweet detar tree (Detarium microcarpum) goes unused. A study of the Mare aux Hippopotames Biosphere Reserve in western Burkina Faso identified the tree as one of six multi-use species “most appreciated by people” and thus “most important”. Two varieties of the species exist. The tall, forest variety produces bitter fruit while the shorter savannah variety produces a sweet, green fruit that is particularly popular in West Africa. The brown pods of sweet-sour fruit have the shape and size of apricots but a shell and pulp akin to its relative the tamarind.

Illustration of detar fruit and flower published in 1891. (Photo credit: Paul Hermann Wilhelm Taubert via Wikipedia Commons)

Usually eaten fresh by children, the fruit is sometimes sun-dried then sold in markets. The fruit is boiled with jackalberry and black plum and concentrated to make fruit leathers in northern Nigeria, while in Sierra Leone, it’s made into a drink. Detar is higher in vitamin C than guava, and has a very good shelf life. It can be returned to its fresh state if it dries out by soaking it in sugar water, and the liquid by-product makes a fruity drink.

Boiling the fragrant seed breaks down the seedcoat to expose a kernel rich in essential amino acids and fatty acids, which is pounded into ofo flour in Nigeria and used to thicken egusi soup. Alternatively, cooking oil is extracted from the kernels by crushing them, with the by-products of this process used as an animal feed. When the seeds are not eaten, they are strung together to make fragrant necklaces.

The fragrance of other parts of the tree is useful as well. If the bark is damaged, a sticky, fragrant gum is secreted that is used to deter mosquitoes. Heated roots produce a sweet scent that is used as a perfume by women in Sudan, and as a mosquito repellent in Chad.

Resistant to moisture, weathering, and pests, the dense, hard wood is workable and thus highly desirable for carpentry and joinery when making houses, boats, and fences. The wood is also sought for firewood and charcoal since it lights quickly, even in the presence of moisture.

The bark, leaves, and roots help to treat a variety of ailments throughout West and Central Africa. Boiled powdered bark is used as a painkiller, fresh bark or leaves are used to dress wounds to prevent infections. In Mali, the bark is used to treat measles and hypertension while the leaves or roots are used to treat meningitis and cramps in people and diarrhea in cattle. The fruit pulp is used in Burkina Faso to treat skin infections, whereas in Niger and Togo the fruit is used to treat dizziness. In Senegal, the leaves mixed with those of other trees and milk is used to treat snakebites, while in Benin the leaves are boiled to treat fainting and convulsions.

The tree itself is heat and drought tolerant and capable of thriving on infertile sites. With its many uses, the tree would be a good candidate for reforestation of degraded lands.

Its usefulness, hardiness, nutritive value, and ability to be propagated by budding also make the tree a good candidate for domestication, according to a study of wild African fruits in 2008 by the U.S. National Research Council.

Kim Kido is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase your own copy of State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet, please click HERE. And to watch the one minute book trailer, click HERE.


Innovation of the Week: Better Cotton, Better Livelihoods

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By Janeen Madan

Ninety percent of the world’s cotton is grown by farmers in developing countries – they sell their cotton to local spinners and ginners that supply large international buyers, such as Hanes, Victoria’s Secret, and Nike.

In Pakistan, WWF is working with cotton growers to limit the use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers and use irrigation water more efficiently. (Photo credit: Better Cotton Initiative)

But, cotton cultivation can have severe health risks for those who grow it—and the environment. Inefficient irrigation techniques make cotton one of the most water-intensive crops, and improper use of fertilizers and pesticides can threaten human health, pollute water resources, and reduce soil fertility. In Pakistan, the world’s fourth largest cotton producer, 100 percent of cotton crops are irrigated, using precious and costly water resources. And cotton grows account for 75 percent of the agricultural sector’s pesticide use in the country.

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)– an international membership association made up of cotton retailers, producers, and non-profit groups – is working in Pakistan, India, Brazil, and West & Central Africa (Benin, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso) to promote sustainable cotton cultivation that is less damaging to the health of farmers and the environment.

In Pakistan, WWF, BCI’s implementing partner, collaborates with local farmers’ associations, such as the Kissan Welfare Association to organize training workshops called Farmer Field Schools (FFS). Farmers meet once a week to share knowledge on ways to limit the use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers and use irrigation water more efficiently.
At the FFS, farmers, and especially women farmers, are learning to protect themselves from the harmful effects of pesticides. Zohra Bibi, who is married to a cotton farmer in the south Punjab region says, “We used to suffer from skin problems, such as rashes, as well as dizziness and headaches. We would use the same dirty hands for cooking after we had come in from the fields and sometimes we would even use the empty pesticide bottles in our kitchens to store wheat. Now we know better.”



What Works: Stopping the Sands and Increasing the Harvest

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By Molly Theobald

This post is part of a series where Nourishing the Planet asks its readers: What works? Every week we’ll ask the question and every week you can join the conversation!

Farmers in the Sahel are using creative solutions to combat desertification. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Throughout the Sahel, recurrent drought, deforestation, and over-farming, is turning once lush farm land into desert.  And when the sand starts spreading, it can be difficult to stop. Picked up by the wind, dust and sand travels vast distances to cover villages, roads, crops, and irrigation systems, making it increasingly difficult to farm and maintain infrastructure.

Farmers are especially impacted by desertification. Dry, cracked and depleted soils make for poor harvests, while sand covered roads make it nearly impossible to transport crops to the market. Yet, farmers are also the people who hold some of the best tools with which to put a stop to the spreading sands.

In Mauritania, for example, where moving sand dunes cover two-thirds of the country’s land area, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), partnered with the government of Mauritania to help protect the country’s towns and cities. Between 2000 and 2007, a series of fences were designed to use wind to create artificial dunes surrounding Nouakchott, the country’s capital. These dunes reduced the strength of the wind and slowed the advancement of more sand. Set at a 120 to 140 degree angle, deflection fences were also erected in order to redirect the incoming winds and sands, further reducing sand build up. Both fences are made from branches and twigs that were collected from mature forests.

Once the dunes have been halted with hand-woven fences, the process of creating long-term barriers begins.  Although dunes are perhaps the least hospitable environment upon which to grow trees and other vegetation, walls of mature plant growth also provide one of the most effective barriers for sand. Depending on the climate and soil conditions, drought-tolerant and indigenous tree species are selected and planted to act as barriers.



In Case You Missed It: The Week in Short

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Another busy week for Nourishing the Planet as we prepare to head to Nigeria for a few weeks to visit with farmers, scientists, reporters and research organizations to evaluate their work on the ground in biodiversity conservation and crop variety development.

photo credit: Bernard Pollack

This week we saw the first two parts of a series on the Africa Sustainable Development Council (ASUDEC) in Burkina Faso and their work to challenge the obstacles facing small scale farmers. Our featured project in India focused on the Tamil Nadu Women’s Development Project and how women find economic safety in numbers. Our weekly innovation highlighted the Acara Institute and their work to turn classroom learning into real business models that can help alleviate hunger.

We were featured in Heifer International’s World Ark Magazine, Niger’s Le Republicain, the Jerusalem Post, and two newspapers in Korea on our recommendations for the G20 leaders on improving global hunger, the Seoul Times and the Korea Herald.


Harnessing Local Resources for Community Development: An Interview with Salibo Some

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Interview by Abby Massey

Salibo Some is the Director of the Africa Sustainable Development Council (ASUDEC) in Burkina Faso. This interview is the second post in a series about Salibo and his work with ASUDEC. To read the first part of this series, see Transitioning from Subsistence to Entrepreneurship.

What are the main obstacles that small scale farmers face in sub-Saharan Africa—and specifically in Burkina Faso?

Salibo Some is the Director of the Africa Sustainable Development Council (ASUDEC) in Burkina Faso. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

Farmers’ problems cannot be singled out off the global development problems.  To me, there are 3 fundamental development problems that are faced in sub-Saharan Africa:

1)      Water control:  Water is a source of life; meaning that wherever there is water, food security, biodiversity and overall livelihood can be enhanced.

2)      Population growth: Birth is a desperate solution to insecure life in poor communities or a genuine religious weapon for some religious groups.  While in the first case any death is seen as a big loss, in the second case, death is generally endorsed to God and life is unvalued.  In both cases however, continued birth is guided by fatalism, and leads to chronicle hardships and unsustainability.  Family planning is critical to maintain a balanced population/resources ratio that will enable durable food security, biodiversity, overall livelihood and global peace.

3)      Education: Education is the panacea to all problems.  I mean by “education”, awareness improvement, literacy, skill development, and civic education.  Good education improves the hearth, the head and the hands of the learner so as to promote wisdom, knowledge and skills.   A good education should provide the basic understanding that environment is everything, including oneself, his “likes” and “dislikes” and that every element of the environment has a critical role to play and therefore, must be preserved and valued.  Education must be promoted by all means in order to ensure long term resiliency of the world community and to preserve humanity. (more…)