No. 6 December 1994

Climate Change Effects in Burkina Faso

by Arturo Villavicencio, UNEP Centre
Following the entry into force of the Climate Convention, the Government of Burkina Faso has request the Danish Government to provide technical assistance and support in order to assess national contributions to global GHG accumulation and to identify the most relevant GHG abatement options for national target-setting and action. In line with this request, our Centre has been commissioned by the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to undertake a collaborative project to assist the Government of Burkina Faso in building sufficient indigenous institutional capability to establish the initial reporting to the FCCC, to periodically carry out national inventories on anthropogenic GHG emissions and to pursue policies and actions that would enable the country to cope with the negative impacts of climate change. The project, whose implementation will start early next year, aims to:

Vulnerability assessment and adaptation measures

Although climate change is a global problem, it has been recognised that the severity of its effects will not be evenly distributed geographically. There are some indications that the direct effects of climate change may have more serious impacts in developing countries. This is mainly because pressures on ecological systems are close to their tolerance

limits. Burkina Faso, like its neighbouring countries in the Sahel, has been seriously affected by the frequency, severity and duration of changing climatic phenomena (droughts, soil moisture, wind regime, etc.) in recent years. Low and highly variable rainfall as well as changing wind conditions, are worsening the already unfavourable climatic conditions, the inadequate water supplies and the poor, heavily eroded soils.

Within this context, the project is intended to provide basic criteria and elements for undertaking analysis of both the vulnerability of regional and local ecosystems, and the adaptation measures to cope with the climate change impacts that may follow from increasing concentrations of GHGs in the atmosphere.

Energy resources

Burkina has a very limited resource base to meet its energy needs. Domestic biomass (fuelwood and agricultural residues) cannot continue to satisfy the requirements of household cooking. Agro-industrial residues have some potential to further reduce industrial consumption of oil, for example by more efficient use of bagasse in the sugar industry or ethanol production. Hydropower resources are limited; of the two multi-purpose hydro schemes which could help to reduce the consumption of fuel oil for electricity generation in the capital Ouagadougou, one is already under development. Since there is no serious prospect of discovering exploitable reserves of fossil fuels or petroleum in the medium term, both natural forest management and more efficient use of fuelwood, agro-industrial residues and imported petroleum products will remain the key elements of Burkina's energy strategy for the foreseeable future.

Share of final energy demand in Burkina Faso 1990.

Energy, environment and development

Many obstacles constrain Burkina's development prospects, with widespread poverty and rapid population growth posing the greatest challenges. These are the principal causes of the persistent destruction of the forest resources and land degradation, which are in turn the major environmental and economic threats faced by Burkina Faso today.

The current unsustainable use of wood resources is leading to a rapid depletion of the sparse forest cover. It has been estimated that forest cover is presently decreasing at about 60,000 hectares per year: land clearing for agricultural development accounts for about 40,000 ha, while the remainder is the result of bushfires, drought and the cutting of wood for fuel in largely unmanaged natural forest. In addition, the increasing scarcity of fuelwood is leading to greater use of crop residues and dung for household cooking; this in turn exacerbates land erosion, and the decline in soil fertility, and accelerates desertification. The situation is particularly serious on the densely

populated central Mossi plateau.

The direct and derived effects of a decline in woody biomass on the national economy and on welfare can be summarised as follows:

Double dividends

The above remarks indicate that sustainable agricultural practices, land-use policies and forestry management options, aimed at reducing the atmospheric accumulation of GHG either by maintaining existing stocks and/or by expanding carbon sinks will have a direct impact on the country's social and economic development. Therefore, in the case of Burkina Faso, responses to climate change issues can generate a wide range of benefits at the national and local levels. In the short term these benefits may be even more important to development than the effects of GHG reduction. The "economic and environmental double dividend" thus represents a sufficient reason for incorporating climate change related issues in the country's development plans.

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