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Burkina Faso - Climate

Burkina Faso has been affected by an increase in the scale and intensity of droughts, rain, heat waves, strong winds and dust storms, according to a government report. The country is the 20th most vulnerable to climate change and the 35th least ready in the world, said Richard Munang, the Africa regional climate change coordinator for the United Nations Environmental Program. More than one-third of Burkina Faso's land is degraded with degradation expanding at a rate of 360,000 hectares (890,000 acres) a year. In Burkina Faso there were more than two million severely food insecure people in mid-2020 - from more than 680,000 at the same time in 2019.

Burkina Faso is highly exposed to extreme weather and climate change impacts, most notably floods, droughts, strong winds and high variability in the duration of the rainy and dry seasons. All of these impacts have made it difficult to manage natural resource-based productive sectors including agriculture, fisheries, and forestry. They have also compounded the difficulty of planning for food security, health epidemics and water resource management, particularly dam and hydropower operations.

A tropical climate with two seasons: a long dry season, from November to June and a rainy season, from July to October, rhythm the life of the Burkinabè. Annual average rainfall varies from about 100 centimeters (40 in.) in the south to less than 25 centimeters (10 in.) in the north and northeast, where hot desert winds accentuate the dryness of the region. The cooler season, November to February, is pleasantly warm and dry (but dusty), with cool evenings. March-June can be very hot. In July-September, the rains bring a 3-month cooler and greener humid season.

Agriculture still accounts for 32 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 80 percent of the population. In the north, where rainfall averages 300–400 mm per year and is limited to a short wet season, animal husbandry is the main livelihood. Rainfall is somewhat higher across the Central Plateau, where agriculture has been the dominant activity for centuries. Cotton is the main cash crop; however, livestock production is also an important source of income. In order to reduce its vulnerability to droughts and water shortages, Burkina Faso has built many dams and levees along major rivers and their tributaries. These reservoirs meet the water needs of the urban population and provide for irrigation of horticultural crops during the dry season, contributing to the country’s agricultural diversity.

Like other Sahellan countries, Upper Volta Is subject to recurrent drought cycles and accompanying famine and epidemics. (Measles, meningitis, yellow fever, and cholera epidemics have necessitated aid inthe last decade.) Over the 15 years up to 1977, 1968-73, 1975, 1977 were drought-stricken. The 1968-73 drought was worst in northern pastoral zones, but crop producing zones along the Dlebougou-Koudougou-Kaya axis were hardest hit in 1977. In 1979, 1981, and 1982 meningitis outbreaks reached epidemic levels In several areas.

By May 2016 even the wealthiest neighborhoods in Burkina Faso's capital, typically spared from such shortages, were suffering without water amid an unprecedented heat wave. Already the short supply had increased the price of a barrel of water more than 10 fold from just a few months earlier.

Climate changes are evident throughout Burkina Faso. The eastern and southwestern parts of the country, which generally have more favourable weather, are increasingly hit by high temperatures and pockets of drought. The government is helping villagers dig wells and build small water reservoirs to better utilize the country’s scarce water resources.

Due to its geographical position, Burkina Faso is characterized by a dry tropical climate which alternates between a short rainy season and a long dry season. Burkina Faso’s climate is prone to strong seasonal and annual variation due to its location in the hinterland and within the confines of the Sahara. The country has three climatic zones: the Sahelian zone in the north receiving less than 600mm average annual rainfall; the north-sudanian zone in the center receiving an average annual rainfall between 600 and 900mm; and the south-sudanian zone in the south with an average annual rainfall in excess of 900mm.

Climate change may affect the Sahelian region of Africa through severe variations in rainfall, water shortage and low agricultural yield. This should amplify drought risks and evaporation, and reduce agricultural productivity (a 10% drop in rainfall is expected by 2050; GIEC, 1997). In addition, climate change will probably result in higher temperatures (a 1.4-1.6°C rise is expected by 2050), potentially increasing the risk for forest fires or bushfires.

As in the other countries of the sub-region, the signs of climate variability and change in Burkina Faso established by the Directorate General of National Meteorology (DGM) are a reality in terms of rainfall. There have been three main trends:
  1. between 1950 and 1970: prevalence of wet years;
  2. between 1970 and 1990: prevalence of dry years;
  3. from 1990 onwards: marked shifts between wet and dry years.

Rainfall in Burkina Faso declined rapidly between 1950 and the mid-1980s, and recovered in the 1990s. Between 2000 and 2009, however, the recovery stalled, and the 2000–2009 average remained about 15 percent lower than the 1920–69 mean average. The DGM analysis illustrates that rainfall in Burkina Faso changed during the 20th century. The data compiled for that period indicate:

  1. a downward trend in total annual rainfall across the entire country;
  2. a downward trend in the indicator across the number of rainy days;
  3. an upward trend in the number of consecutive dry days (from 46 to 57 days per decade in the areas of Dédougou, Farakoba et Ouahigouya).

In all three climate zones, there was a downward trend in rainfall at the reference weather stations at Dori (Sahelian zone), Ouagadougou (Sudanian-Sahelian zone) and Bobo-Dioulasso (Sudanian zone) between 1960 and 2011. Moreover, cumulative rainfall data analysis for thirty-year periods (normal values) indicates that the 600 and 900 mm isohyets migrated about 100 to 150 km from north to south between 1930 and 2010.

Long-term data on extreme temperatures indicate an overall upward trend in the number of hot days and hot nights, except in the south western regions, where there has been a downward trend in the number of hot nights. Detailed analysis indicates that there is generally an upward trend in extreme annual temperatures (minimum annual temperatures and maximum annual temperatures) in both the Sudanian and the Sahelian zones. However, that rise is more marked for the minimum annual temperatures than for the maximum annual temperatures.

The regeneration capacity of forest formations will no longer suffice to compensate for timber felled for energy. Dwindling pasture land and water-holes will force pastoral activities further and further south.

Historically (before 1970), increasing air temperatures have been associated with less rain and vice versa; therefore, the unprecedented recent warming with increasing rainfall is probably due to a combination of rainfall enhancements caused by changes in Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperatures and warming related to greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions. These analyses of station-based temperature data indicate large departures from normal, and this warming trend is projected to persist. Continued rainfall increases are much less certain since they seem to be linked to natural decadal variations in the Atlantic Ocean

The longer rainy season will increase cases of malaria and reduce the dry period which favours meningitis; however, it will be marked by a general rise in temperatures. Electricity consumption for air-conditioning will increase by an additional 25-50 % merely by reason of the rise in temperature, which will complicate production management during hot spells.

Climate change adaptation is no longer a choice; it is instrumental to sustainable development. A process of inclusive and efficient involvement of all stakeholders must be put in place in order to combat the harmful effects of climate change.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2021 11:51:00 ZULU