A woman drives a donkey cart loaded with firewood back to Zorro Village, Burkina Faso – Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR
Why integration is key in West Africa’s mosaic landscapes
WAFFI project aims to keep smallholders from falling through the policy gaps
In the Sahel region of West Africa, fields,
fallow, pasture and forests are dotted with trees like shea, nére and baobab,
which people use in many different ways. Land use also shifts from season to
season and year to year. While this flux blurs the lines between agricultural,
pastoral and forest lands, it’s also what allows women and men to adapt to a
harsh environment and feed their families.
This way of life has worked for thousands
of years. But agricultural and forest policies and programs often treat forests
and agriculture separately, leaving a critical mismatch between what the laws
dictate and how people actually live in these multi-use landscapes.
With the World Agroforestry and Tree Aid, and with the support of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, CIFOR is leading the West Africa Forest-Farm Interface Project (WAFFI). The goal? To document the ways smallholders in Burkina Faso and Ghana use the landscape, in order to help policy makers adapt programs to the realities of integrated forest/tree management systems while better supporting the livelihoods and food security of farmers.
Central to the project’s participatory
action research approach are Village Exchange Workshops in which men, women,
elders and youth alike are encouraged to have discussions about very immediate,
incremental steps that they can take to better understand a problem or solve a
“Encouraging participants to share their observations, listen to others and examine problems from different perspectives is part of ‘social learning’,” said Peter Cronkleton, CIFOR Senior Scientist. “While we can facilitate the process, it’s up to the participants to reach consensus on possible solutions or next steps. When they agree, it’s because they have identified shared interests.”
The project team also is facilitating
multi-stakeholder meetings in which policy makers, practitioners and village
representatives share knowledge and experiences. These discussions serve as a
platform in which marginalized people feel free to voice their interests and
needs, and where villagers gain key negotiation skills and the confidence to address
decision-makers. Hilda, a farmer from the village of Nyangania said, “I use to
be very shy, but when I became a facilitator for the village appraisal, I
learned how to talk to people – I even interviewed our chief! Now I’m not
afraid to stand up and talk in public.”
Gender-responsive capacity building
Women make up
about 63% of participants in project activities, and that percentage is increasing.
an analytic gender framework, the project is teasing out the different roles
and patterns of access to resources and benefits in the study sites, looking at
the institutional, technological and cultural factors that may help or
constrain women, young people and pastoralists.
During a training session for local
technicians, who were learning to facilitate participatory action
research, several local women volunteered to take part in a ‘learning by doing’ exercise. They learned how to use compasses and global positioning
devices to map their environs and measure how far they walked to find firewood.
By combining villagers’ knowledge of the landscape with more technical approaches, WAFFI is documenting local complexities and practices in a more systematic way. Designed as a three-year project, the WAFFI approach and methods could eventually be scaled up in Ghana, Burkina Faso and neighboring countries with similar mosaic landscapes.
river runs through it
When Burkina Faso established the Kaboré Tambi National Park as a national forest to protect its trees and wildlife from degradation, it also cut off the only local source of surface water for livestock during the dry season. The law strictly denies all access to the forest, leaving pastoralists with little option but to trespass.
Although this leads to conflict, there is also hidden opportunity in the situation. Laws that grant limited access for water and plant collection could encourage stewardship of natural resources. And the – legal – presence of people in the forest could even discourage illegal logging and poaching. “The government created the park as a strict conservation area, but policy makers lack the staff and funding to enforce these regulations,” explained CIFOR Scientist Mathurin Zida. “The reality is that nearby farmers and pastoralists lack other sources of water for their cattle during the dry season and are forced to circumvent the existing restrictions. Obviously, negotiating trade-offs among these stakeholders to find a viable compromise would be better than the status quo.”