Tue, Sep 30, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Warming is a global woe requiring a global effort

By Issa Martin Bikienga

Burkina Faso is in the heart of the Sahel, which means that it is one of the world’s most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change. Its farmers might know little about the causes of global warming, but they know its effects: droughts and flooding causing lost harvests, pastureland erosion and food crises.

Sustainable agriculture has been gaining ground for several years, both in Burkina Faso and internationally. The term features in political discourse and has become a key approach to global agricultural development. Sustainability is now a driving force in agriculture and as important as productivity was in past decades.

The concept of sustainable agriculture is inextricably linked to sustainable development, first defined in 1987 as a model of economic growth “that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable agriculture is a type of farming that ensures that internal and external resources are used and conserved as efficiently as possible; is ecologically sound and economically viable, offering reasonable returns on investments.

Close scrutiny of both definitions leads to the conclusion that there can be no sustainable development without sustainable agriculture. In Burkina Faso, sustainable agriculture features prominently — as it must — in the country’s development policies and strategies.

In 2012, Burkina Faso adopted the National Policy of Sustainable Development, which has become key to realizing the vision set out in the Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Sustainable Development. That vision describes “a productive economy which accelerates growth, increases living standards, improves and preserves the living environment and living conditions through wise and efficient governance.” All stakeholders in farming in Burkina Faso broadly share a commitment to sustainability.

The national conference of the 2011 UN General Assembly for Agriculture and Food Security embraced this objective: “By 2025, farming in Burkina Faso will be modern, competitive, sustainable and driving growth. It will be founded on family-owned farms and efficient agricultural businesses, and will guarantee [that] all citizens have access to the food they need to lead healthy, active lives.” Likewise, the aim of Burkina Faso’s National Program for Rural Areas is to “contribute in a sustainable way to food and nutrition security, to strong economic growth and to reducing poverty.”

Another tried and tested agricultural practice in Burkina Faso is the integrated management of production. The goal is to improve smallholders’ productivity in a sustainable way, equipping them with the knowledge and understanding needed to operate efficiently, while respecting health and the environment.

Sustainable agriculture has changed farming in Burkina Faso for the better. There and elsewhere, it is the key to confronting climate change and food and nutritional insecurity, because it respects the land and is far more effective in the long term than industrial farming. Moreover, sustainable practices reassert the value of small, family-run holdings, which, in countries like Burkina Faso, produce nearly all of the domestic food supply.

Such countries cannot address climate change alone. Nor should they, as drought and flooding occur largely because of climate imbalances caused by industrial activities. We are victims of a phenomenon caused mainly by developed countries — a phenomenon that is holding back our own development. If we are to take sustainable development seriously, those responsible for this outcome must help, particularly by contributing to the adaptation costs countries like Burkina Faso now face.

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