By switching to dark mode you can reduce the energy consumption of our digital service.

Burkina Faso

Note: This report was produced in Feb 2009 as part of work to support Sida Environment and Climate strategies for different countries.


Current Climate and hazards

Climatic zones in Burkina Faso. Source NAPA 2007

Burkina Faso lies in the Sahelian zone and experiences high temperatures and unpredictable and variable rainfall. Climatically it can be split into 3 zones from North to South, comprising the Sahelian zone in the North of the country with rainfall less than 600mm/year, the North Sudanian with rainfall from 600-900mm/year and the South Sudanian zone where rainfall is greater than 900mm/year. Data presented in the NAPA, based on climate records extending to 1902 shows that the dry zone has been extending southwards during the last century . The length of the growing season varies from less than 60 days in the north to 160 days in the south, with large inter-annual variation.

Climate variability is already a major constraint on food security and poverty reduction efforts due to the high dependence on the primary sector, which accounts for 86% GDP. Droughts, floods, heatwaves and dust storms are the major climatic hazards in Burkina Faso, and these contribute to problems such as desertification, land degradation and migration away from the central area of the country.

Climate Projections

Changes in average monthly rainfall for the period 2046-2065 compared to 1960-1990 for Ouagadougou.

There is a high level of uncertainty associated with climate projections for Burkina Faso, and W. Africa in general, in particular for changes in precipitation, with the result that projections of changes in precipitation should be treated with caution . The NAPA only provides results from the MAGICC/Scengen models, and given the large differences between models it is not regarded as useful to rely on these results in this report. For West Africa the IPCC gives a range of +1.8-4.7C for the period 2081-2100 (with a median of +3.3C), and a slight increase in precipitation which the report says ‘should be treated with caution’ due to the differences between the models.

Downscaled climate data from 8 models for Dori, Ougadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso emphasise the uncertainty in precipitation projections (see left for Precipitation in Ougadougou). The projections show that average maximum temperatures will increase in the range of 2-3C by 2050 but that the only robust results for precipitation are indications that there will be an increase in rainfall towards the end of the rainy season (October) in Ougadougou and Bobo-Dioulasso


Burkina Faso’s low ranking on the Human Development Index, of 173 out of 179 can be used as a proxy for its adaptive capacity, indicating that the ability to respond to the impacts of climate change in Burkina Faso is limited. While the projections of changes in precipitation are unclear, certain impacts are more certain. Climate change is expected to increase variability and the incidence of extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods and intense rainfall events. These can be expected to impact negatively on crop production, in particular as agriculture is already vulnerable to current fluctuations in climate in many areas of Burkina Faso. Increasing temperatures will cause greater evapo-transpiration, which will lead to drier soil conditions in many areas, and as demand grows water availability is likely decrease regardless of whether there is an increase or decrease in precipitation

An increase in maximum temperatures, and probable increase in drought conditions, will affect pastoralist activities both by contributing to land degradation and by directly impacting the herd mortality rates . In this respect it is also worth noting that climate change is increasingly meaning that for nomadic or semi-nomadic groups traditional indicators used to inform their movements are no longer reliable. The costs of climate change have not been calculated for Burkina Faso, and it would be difficult to do so given the uncertainties in climate projections. The Stern Review, however, indicates that for developing countries the costs could be in excess of 10% of GDP with a warming of 5-6°C.

The most vulnerable sectors in Burkina Faso as identified in the NAPA are water, agriculture, pastoralism and forestry, as all are directly impacted by changes in climate. The NAPA doesn’t deal with impacts on Health, and this is one of the criticisms used against it , however it can be expected that an increase in extreme temperatures will increase heat-related mortality, and that extreme events such as heavy rainfall and floods will increase the incidence of diarrhoeal diseases. Indirectly, if subsistence activities such as agriculture and livestock raising are negatively affected by changes in climate then the overall health of the population will be affected due to decreased food security and ability to gain enough nutrients.

It is clear that the groups that will suffer most from the effects of climate change are those that are already poor and vulnerable to current climate variations. Poor rural communities that depend directly on subsistence farming or cattle raising are likely to be disproportionately affected as they lack access to the information, capital and decision-making structures which would allow them to successfully adapt.


In particular given the high dependence on primary sector, adaptation to climate change will be vital if Burkina Faso is to successfully achieve its goals of poverty reduction and economic growth as set out in its national development strategies. The people of Burkina Faso have always adapted to climatic variability, through strategies such as the adoption of crops with short growing requirements, livelihood diversification, and the use of forest products to supplement agriculture. Adaptation must begin with indigenous practices and an understanding of what people know about their local conditions, and indeed many of these practices are now being built on for adaptation.

Broad adaptation strategies that have been proposed in the case of Burkina Faso include Integrated Water Resource Management, changes to cropping practices, the strengthening of existing or creation of new institutions, integration of climate change into the planning process and various awareness campaigns In light of the uncertainty surrounding climate change in Burkina Faso, institutional strengthening and building the capacity within Burkinan government and other Burkinan organisations to use and interpret the latest available information appears to be an important step.

An interesting pilot project on adaptation in Burkina Faso is being run through a UNITAR funded ACCCA project in Ouagadougou. Most adaptation projects focus on supporting rural livelihoods, however there is an increasing awareness of the problems that urban areas will face, and this project aims to incorporate consideration of climate change and variability into the growth and development of Ouagadougou.


Burkina Faso has very low levels of emissions, of 0.07t/capita compared to the world average of 4.22 tonnes/capita, and as such the focus should be on adaptation to climate change rather than mitigation, as under any international agreement Burkina Faso would fall among the countries allowed to increase their emissions. Any mitigation projects should have strong development co-benefits, such as rural electrification programmes using solar heaters, or reafforestation programmes which would also aid soil conservation.

The Clean Development Mechanism is attractive for planners and government officials as a potential way of attracting investment but in reality Burkina Faso has very little capacity or comparative advantage internationally to attract CDM projects. It is worth noting in this regard that there is a large amount of funding for adaptation currently being pledged both by donors, and increasingly private foundations, and that if Burkina Faso can demonstrate institutional capacity for adaptation it will be in a strong position to attract this funding.


The government of Burkina Faso approved its NAPA in December 2007. The NAPA process is aimed at identifying vulnerability to current climate variability and future climate change, and identifying projects to respond to ‘urgent and immediate’ needs. The NAPA was constructed to complement other national strategies such as the poverty action plan and the programme for sustainable land management and was coordinated by the Permanent Secretary for the National Council of the Environment and Sustainable Development. Regional consultation workshops were held as part of the NAPA process with input from communities, NGOs technical staff and government officials, along with sessions in different villages to collect opinions from different groups on urgent and immediate needs. Five regional workshops were held to validate the results of the vulnerability assessments.

30 actions came out of the regional workshops and the activities then ranked and selected based on various criteria and expert judgement to create a list of 12 activities. As of January 2009 none of the activities identified in the NAPA have been implemented, and it remains to be seen to what extent the work of the NAPA will be integrated into the next review of the PRSP, due in 2010.

Institutional relationships and level of integration into national plans.

In general it can be said that a lack of coordination and knowledge exchange is the major institutional barrier to effective action on climate change in Burkina Faso, both between government Ministries and between NGOs, research institutes and the government. The UNFCCC focal point is situated in the permanent secretariat for the National Council for the Environment and Sustainable Development (CONEDD) within the Ministry of the Environment and Quality of Life, and this is the only ministry identified as having capacity on climate change, with the issue too often being confused elsewhere with general environmental management.

The Inter-ministerial council for the implementation of actions under the UNFCCC (CIMAC) was responsible for the 1st National Communication but finance ran out and it ceased to exist as ministries were reorganised. In 2007 the MOE set up a working group on the climate change programme and Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) to carry on the work of the now defunct CIMAC. The working group has a coordination role between Ministers and technical partners, as well as regional institutions. There is currently a reorganisation ongoing which is expected to result in a climate change group working under the CONASUR Committee for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, comprising sections on adaptation and vulnerability, mitigation and the CDM (where the designated national authority on CDM will sit), as well as the DPCIE (Division du Partenariat et de la Coordination des Conventions Internationales en matière d’Environnement) group on the coordination of the Rio Conventions.

Partly due to the rotation and staff and changing institutional arrangements, action on climate change has been isolated and sector-specific, as emphasised in a 2007 report by DPCIE which stated that there had been no examples of inter-ministerial cooperation on climate change. The report also stated that despite a large number of reports on climate change in Burkina Faso, none of the recommendations of any of the reports had been implemented. This is supported by a look at the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), in which climate change and adaptation are barely mentioned despite the strong links between natural resource constraints, poverty and climate.

The lack of coordination and exchange of knowledge and information between different Ministries, makes it hard to build an institutional knowledge base on climate change. It also means that opportunities for synergies are lost, for example no links have so far been made between CONASUR’s activities on disaster risk reduction and climate adaptation. The DPCIE report recommends increased collaboration, both at the national and regional level and the implementation of the Plan for the Environment for Sustainable Development, but it is unclear to what extent the reorganisation will facilitate this exchange.

In order to build the necessary governmental capacity it is important that the Ministries of Agriculture, Water and Mining and Energy, as well as the Met Office and the cloud seeding programme run by the army and air-force become centrally involved in climate change issues, rather than seeing climate change as a purely environmental problem. It is also vital that climate change is included in the PRSP when it is reviewed in 2010, as well as including adaptation in the national plans for agriculture, water and energy in particular.

Non-Governmental institutions

Research Institutes in Burkina Faso are enthusiastic about climate change, and have a solid base of knowledge on adaptation. Many organisations involved have been involved in the preparation of the NAPA and National Communication, and are keen to further support the national government on issues related to climate change. Coordination and exchange of information between the different organisations, and between research institutes, local and international NGOs and the national government is still restricted to partnerships based on personal relationships, however, meaning that knowledge exchange is very limited. The Environment Ministry created the ‘Cadre de Concertation sur l’Environnement’ as a dialogue space but this is dominated by discussions by donors and international NGOs.

Activities of other donors

NB: This is not a comprehensive list and merely gives an indication of other donor activities

Danida is carrying out lots of work in Burkina Faso, and has support programmes for the Water and Sanitation, Education, Energy and Agriculture sectors. Danida also has a project with UNDP on an ‘Awareness and information campaign on Climate Change’, and with UNEP on building capacity for the CDM in countries in W. Africa, including Burkina Faso. This would be mainly aimed at rural renewable schemes to replace traditional wood-burning stoves.

UNEP and UNDP are starting the CC DARE programme to integrate climate adaptation into national development plans, with Burkina Faso as one of the target countries, and UNDP is also supporting the preparation of the 2nd National Communication. FAO are involved in various aspects of early warning and prevention, and also provide technical and financial assistance for the National meteorological Office. The language used isn’t one of adaptation, but the activities they are undertaking are integral to adaptation. UNITAR is involved in the ACCCA project, as mentioned in the section on adaptation. The Japanese aid agency, JAICA, is looking to implement a forest CDM project but no submission has as yet been made to the CDM pipeline. A multi-donor effort Jatropha biofuel project is also planned, with main partners including the Environment Ministry, CIRAD, GTZ UNDP and the University of Ouagadougou.

Related resources

Add your project

Exchange your climate change adaptation projects and lessons learned with the global community.