Soil, Water and Bioenergy Resources Program Highlights Sustainable Agriculture in West Africa

By Yogendra Raut 
Soil, Water and Bioenergy Resources Program

While high-input conventional agriculture produces greater amounts of food, feed, energy, and fiber in developed countries, subsistence agriculture in Africa is one of the factors responsible for chronic food shortages. Current practices in both situations are associated with soil health degradation and food insecurity, and contribute to diminished agroecosystem services.

As the threats of climate change are constantly increasing, and in fact, its impact has already shown devastating effects in Africa. The looming prospect of reduced agroecosystem services demands a knowledge-based solution to support sustainable agriculture in Africa.

In light of some of the management practices for developing sustainable agriculture in Africa, Drs. Yogendra Raut, Vinayak Shedekar and Rafiq Islam visited Burkina Faso, West Africa in February and March 2018. Dr. Alimata A. Bandaogo, a Research Scientist from the Institute of Environment and Agricultural Research (INERA) and a former USDA-FAS Borlaug Fellow (mentored by Rafiq Islam) facilitated our visit to Burkina Faso. 
We organized two workshops jointly organized by The Ohio State University, INERA, and USDA-FAS Norman Borlaug Fellowship Program; first in Bobo-Dioulasso on February 27  and the second in Ouagadougou (Capital of Burkina Faso) on March 1.  Opening remarks were made by the Director-General of INERA-Burkina Faso and a briefing about INERA mission by Drs. Ouedraogo Ibrahima (Regional Director) and Alima Bandaogo, respectively. 

The overall methodology of the workshops was based on participatory action research.  Interactive presentations were delivered at each workshop highlighting: Rethinking agriculture in the 21st century, Sustainable agriculture decision tools, Soil health test and interpretation, and Forage/pasture and animal grazing – challenges and opportunities in Burkina Faso. Several demonstrations of the soil health test/soil organic matter (SOM) calculator were performed. A participatory brain storming session was conducted at both locations to identify current agricultural problems in Burkina Faso, which were: lack of knowledge of delivery systems (Extension), climate-change and soil quality management practices, water quality and irrigation, and availability of suitable equipment. About 30 participants from INERA, local government, private companies, international donor agency (JICA), and farmers’ representatives at each location participated in the workshops.