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Population vulnerability and climate variability in the Sahel:

Author(s): farmers’ evaluation of mitigation strategies
IWRA World Water Congress 2008 Montpellier France
3. Climate Change and Disasters
Author(s): Malick Zoromé
Bruno Barbier
Harouna Karambiri
Hamma Yacouba
Zoromé Malick (2iE), Bruno Barbier (CIRAD), Harouna Karambiri (2iE), Hama Yacouba (2iE)

Keyword(s): climate change, vulnerability, adaptation, economic analysis, poverty

AbstractThe sahelian rural population is considered to be the most vulnerable on earth and this vulnerability is considered to be caused mainly by the variability of west African monsoon. Sahelians have been the most hit by droughts in the seventies and eighties. Farmers and herders are now recovering as rainfalls have improved lately but the question remains whether the new environment and farmers capabilities have improved so as to better cope with future shocks. To answer these questions, focus groups discussions and two detailed surveys were carried in a community in northern Burkina Faso among a random sample of one hundred heads of households. Farmers’ perception and farm characteristics were analyzed with a cluster analysis to distinguish farmers’ groups regarding their assets and their strategies. The main discriminant factors are herd size, access to small irrigation plots and access to draft animals. The groups react differently to climate changes and are likely to follow contrasting pathways of adaptation. New migrations strategies are also investigated be it in the country or outside. The likely impact of seasonal predictions is evaluated. Farmers feel that predictions without credit for crop input cannot change much their investment plan. New technology adoption is occurring fast but the impact is mixed because rapid population growth and shadowy land degradation is masking the benefits of innovations. Contrarily to some recent discourses farmers have great difficulties to adapt to climate variability. Coping strategies were unable to prevent the famine of the seventies and the crisis of 2004 was severe. The reason is that at the same time as climate has changed, population pressure has reached a threshold. Now land has become scarce and mobility is more restricted. External investments, new techniques and new organisations are required to help farmers intensify agriculture in a sustainable way, which means a non-declining and less chaotic production.
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