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Climate variability and population vulnerability in the Sahel : Farmers' evolution of mitigation strategies and policies

Zoromé M., Barbier B., Yacouba H., Karambiri H.. 2008. In : IWRA. 13 ème Congrès mondial de l'eau, Montpellier, 1-4 septembre 2008. s.l. : s.n., 15 p.. Congrès mondial de l'eau. 13, 2008-09-01/2008-09-04, Montpellier (France).

The Sahelian rural population is considered to be one of the most vulnerable on earth and this vulnerability is considered to be caused mainly by the variability of the climate that prevails in this region. Sahelians have been also 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 they have improved their capabilities and how they can cope with future changes. To answer these questions, focus groups discussions and two detailed surveys were conducted in a small catchment in northern Burkina Faso, among a random sample of one hundred heads of households. The interviews aimed to estimate their level of vulnerability to climate variability and to evaluate the likely impact of mitigation strategies. A statistical analysis was carried out including a cluster analysis to distinguish farmers¿ groups regarding to their assets and their strategies. The results show that the main discriminate factors were family size, access to small irrigation plots and number of animals. The groups react differently to climate variability and are likely to follow contrasting pathways of adaptation. New migrations strategies are also investigated. 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 land degradation is masking the benefits of innovations. Contrarily to some recent discourses farmers face difficulties to adapt to climate variability. The reason is that at the same time as climate has changed, population pressure has reached a crisis point. 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.

Mots-clés : dynamique des populations; changement climatique; atténuation des effets du changement climatique; sahel; burkina faso

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