Burkina Faso

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Burkina faso IS a landlocked country in West Africa with a population of about 14.3 million. The terrain is mostly savanna and relatively flat. Three major river systems cut through Burkina Faso: the Mouhoun, the Nakembe, and Nazinon; only the Mouhoun, along with the smaller Comoe, flows year-round. Access to clean water has been stressed in recent years, leading to tension between communities, especially in the north of the country. Only 18 percent of the land is arable, and recent decades have brought recurring droughts and increased desertification, along with overgrazing and soil depletion.

Current climate models indicate that Burkina Faso, like much of West Africa, is drying up and flooding at the same time. After a decades-long dry spell punctuated by severe droughts, the country is now moving into a new cycle, where hot, dry periods are broken by heavy, unpredictable rains. This has led to catastrophic flooding, most recently in August 2007, when at least 6,000 Burkinabe were left homeless after two days of heavy rains. This unpredictability is expected to put pressure on crops and livestock, and lead to increased incidence of disease among animals and humans.

The Burkinabe government has taken several steps to mitigate and cope with climate change. Recently, they have changed the laws in such a way as to grant farmers ownership of the trees on their own property. As a result, fewer trees are being cut down. They have also joined in a regional initiative to enhance biodiversity by encouraging farmers to use more sustainable farming methods.

Burkina Faso is not a significant contributor to carbon emissions. CO2 emissions produced by the Burkinabe dropped 30 percent 1990-98, with annual emissions at just 0.1 thousand metric tons per capita. Of this, the burning of liquid fuels produced 98 percent. The country is a signatory to a number of international environmental conventions, including agreements on biodiversity, ozone protection, wetlands protection, endangered species protection, and the Kyoto protocol; however, the government has not formally ratified any of these conventions.

SEE ALSo: Desertification; Drought; Floods.

BIBLioGRAPHY. The Economist, www.economist.com (cited October 2007); Reuters AlertNet, www.alertnet.org (cited October 2007).

Heather K. Michon Independent Scholar

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