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Using soil and water conservation techniques to rehabilitate degraded lands in northwestern Burkino Faso
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In West Africa, cropping systems are difficult to sustain and agricultural productivity is low. Organic matter is utilized to improve soil quality, but mechanization and improved seeds are underutilized. The article identifies that soil and water conservation techniques (SWCTs) have been promoted in northwestern Burkina Faso and can be utilized to help maintain agricultural production in unpredictable climates. SWCTs such as rock bunds, zai, filter walls, agroforestry, and half-moons are now widespread in Burkina Faso. The agroecological conditions of Burkina Faso are discussed as well as how the aforementioned SWC technologies are applied. The study utilized a participatory approach to record the experiences of farmers, both non-innovators and innovators, and 30 plots were randomly surveyed. Zai is a soil conservation technique through which organic matter is placed in holes dug in the ground and is shown to double or quadruple yields while also improving soil quality and increasing the land area available for agriculture. Rock bunds are small stone dykes that reduce erosion and the speed of water run-off and increase water infiltration. Rock bunds and zai are shown to have a beneficial impact on crop production as well as vegetative regeneration. Half-moons are also utilized to reduce water run-off, but require more input of organic matter to improve soil quality and more intensive efforts to train farmers. Agroforestry is utilized to regenerate trees, improve soil quality, and increase crop yields. Increased average rainfall has been observed on the farms that adopted these SWCTs, especially zai. The author concludes that SWCTs have helped to minimize rural poverty, secure livelihoods and reduce susceptibility to famine and drought. Crop yields could be increased through utilization of SWCTs, animal traction, fertilizers, and implementation of policies that increase farmers’ access to off-farm inputs. The article suggested that production systems could be made more resistant to climactic uncertainties if farmers utilized SWCTs, cultivated crops better suited to local conditions, and more effectively integrated livestock rearing with crop production.