Burkina Faso: Improved crop varieties

One option to help farmers increase the productivity of soil, water, nutrients and other resources is the genetic improvement of crops under stress and optimal growing conditions (IPCC, 2019; Searchinger et al., 2014; Voss-Fels et al., 2019). An improved or modern variety is a new variety of a plant species which produces higher yields, higher quality or provides better resistance to plant pests and diseases, while minimizing the pressure on the natural environment (Access to Seeds Index, 2020). Such modern varieties are genetically uniform, which means that their characteristics are constant within all individuals of that specific variety. The exact definition and requirements of improved varieties depend on a country’s legislation and international treaties (e.g. harmonized Seed Regulation adopted by ECOWAS). Improved varieties have, for example, higher tolerances to abiotic stressors, such as drought (Fisher et al., 2015), resistances to biotic stressors (e.g. diseases and pests), improved resource use or other changes that permit altering the agronomic management by, for example, needing shorter growing cycles. Along with labour saving technologies and flexible credits, locally adapted seed varieties are among the most needed inputs for farmers in Burkina Faso (Roncoli et al., 2001).

Improved crop varieties are a highly beneficial adaptation strategy in Burkina Faso. Furthermore, the cost-benefit analysis shows a very positive return on a rather small-scale investment (see Figure 1). Due to its positive impact on yield increase and stability as well as increased levels of nutrients, improved varieties can also help to decrease malnutrition and undernutrition. However, there are several factors, such as high prices of agricultural inputs, the insufficiency of logistical and financial support, the poor organization of the sector, the lack of motivation by seed producers to enter the market, the climatic risks associated with agricultural production and a decline in soil fertility, which impede the use of improved seeds by farmers. Besides that, insufficient agronomic knowledge or non-locally adapted varieties can lead to controversial effects and negative outcomes of this strategy.

To achieve the optimal adaptation effect of improved varieties, the following recommendations should be considered:

  • Ideally, improved varieties are promoted that fulfil several conditions, such as farmers’ preferences, local suitability, agronomic management and that are available and accessible for smallholder farmers. The sufficient supply of locally adapted good quality seeds on the local level should be, therefore, supported.
  • To promote a continuing process of innovation adoption, efforts should be directed to creating a seed sector that covers the overall process for improved seeds from plant breeding and pre-breeding to seed propagation, marketing and advisory, whilst focusing on farmers’ needs.
  • Knowledge transfer regarding the varieties’ potential and the best way to cultivate them can help farmers to use improved varieties.
  • For a profitable adoption it is necessary to ameliorate the functioning of the agricultural value chain including functioning infrastructure and agriculture markets to make agricultural inputs available and accessible.
  • It is also important to highlight the value of local landraces, as they are a pillar for safeguarding local traditions, agronomic practices and accompanying knowledge. Such a safeguarding of seeds and practices could be institutionalized by in-situ conservation projects, local seed banks, corporations with national or international gene banks and diversity fairs.
  • A better communication and interaction of seed sector stakeholders can help to improve seed and knowledge dissemination on a local, regional and national level.
Figure 1: Development of the net present value of switching to sorghum cultivation using ICV, Source: Own figure based on own calculations.


  • Access to Seeds Index. (2020). Definitions. https://www.accesstoseeds.org/definitions/
  • Fisher, M., Abate, T., Lunduka, R. W., Asnake, W., Alemayehu, Y., & Madulu, R. B. (2015). Drought tolerant maize for farmer adaptation to drought in sub-Saharan Africa: Determinants of adoption in eastern and southern Africa. Climate Change, 133(2), 283–299. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1459-2
  • IPCC. (2019). Climate Change and Land: An IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • Ishikawa, H., Drabo, I., Joseph, B., Batieno, B., Muranaka, S., Fatokoun, C., & Boukar, O. (2020). Characteristics of farmers’ selection criteria for cowpea (Vigna unguiculata) varieties differ between north and south regions of Burkina Faso. Ex. Agric, 56(1), 94–103. https://doi.org/10.1017/S001447971900019X
  • Roncoli, C., Ingram, K., & Kirshen, P. (2001). (2001): The costs and risks of coping with drought: Livelihood impacts and farmers’ responses in Burkina Faso. Clim. Res., 19, 119–132. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr019119
  • Searchinger, T., Hanson, C., & Lacape, J.-M. (2014). Crop Breeding: Renewing the Global Commitment. WRI.
  • Voss-Fels, K. P., Stahl, A., Wittkop, B., Lichthardt, C., Nagler, S., Rose, T., Chen, T.-W., Zetzsche, H., Seddig, S., Baig, M. M., Ballvora, A., Frisch, M., Ross, E., Hayes, B. J., Hayden, M. J., Ordon, F., Leon, J., Kage, H., Friedt, W., … Snowdon, R. J. (2019). Breeding improves wheat productivity under contrasting agrochemical input levels. Nature Plants, 5(7), 706–714. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-019-0445-5

Burkina Faso: Integrated soil fertility management

Burkina Faso faces natural soil poverty as well as a continuous decline in soil fertility due to the overexploitation of land, soil and water resources caused by population growth and the corresponding demand for food. Poor management practices (e.g. bush burning) often result in soil erosion and the subsequent loss of topsoil, thereby further limiting land suitable for crop production (Nyamekye et al., 2018). The increasing occurrence of droughts presents an additional stressor for soils, contributing to land degradation and reduced soil fertility.

Integrated soil fertility management, commonly referred to as ISFM, can help to secure agricultural outputs under those conditions and has been promoted in Burkina Faso for several decades (Zougmoré et al., 2004). Considered a key factor in improving low soil and crop productivity in Africa, ISFM is defined as “a set of soil fertility management practices that necessarily include the use of fertiliser, organic inputs and improved germplasm, combined with the knowledge on how to adapt these practices to local conditions in aim of maximizing the agronomic use efficiency of the applied nutrients and improving crop productivity. All inputs need to be managed following sound agronomic principles” (Vanlauwe et al., 2010). ISFM is not characterised by specific field practices, but is “a fresh approach to combining available technologies in a manner that preserves soil quality while promoting its productivity” (Sanginga & Woomer, 2009). ISFM requires interventions to be aligned with prevalent biophysical and socio-economic conditions at farm and plot level (Vanlauwe et al., 2015). Typical for drylands, ISFM in Burkina Faso is based on the following objectives: 1) maximising water capture and decreasing runoff, 2) reducing water and wind erosion, 3) managing limited available organic resources and 4) strategically applying mineral fertilisers (Sanginga & Woomer, 2009). Suitable interventions include, for example, Zaï, half-moons, stone bunds, filter bunds, grass strips and mulching.

ISFM is a promising adaptation strategy under all future climate change scenarios, supporting the rehabilitation of soil where it is degraded and increasing the plant diversity in Burkina Faso. At present, ISFM is mostly used in central and northern Burkina Faso, however, the technology could be beneficial for all regions in the country to manage soil moisture and fertility, partly due to its rather small-scale initial investment. This is also reflected in the results of the cost-benefit analysis which show that implementing ISFM techniques would be beneficial for the farmers (see Figure 1).

The following recommendations can thus be given for Burkina Faso:

  • Awareness raising and training on the advantages and implementation of ISFM to support the effectiveness of this strategy which is relatively time consuming for farmers. The consideration of the technology in education and extension programs can also help to support the effective dissemination.
  • Policies towards sustainable land use intensification, as well as the rehabilitation of degraded soils and the necessary mechanisms to implement and evaluate these can help to promote the uptake of ISFM.
  • Research on innovative ISFM practices as well as the dissemination of the results can improve the effectiveness of the technology and further strengthen the adoption rate.
  • The public sector can play an important role in creating a platform for bringing together and linking key partners in research, education, extension, service providers, input providers, and farmers to facilitate farmer mobilisation and capacity development.
  • Policies that incentivise credit and loan schemes and subsidy programmes for the production of organic inputs could address the issue of lack of access to equipment and input.
Figure 1: Development of the net present value of switching to sorghum cultivation using ISFM, Source: Own figure based on own calculations.


  • Nyamekye, C., Thiel, M., Schönbrodt-Stitt, S., Zoungrana, B. J. B., & Amekudzi, L. K. (2018). Soil and Water Conservation in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Sustainability, 10(9), 1–24. https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093182
  • Sanginga, N., & Woomer, P. L. (2009). Integrated Soil Fertility Management in Africa—Principles, Practices and Development Process. Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (TSBF-CIAT).
  • Vanlauwe, B., Bationo, A., Chianu, J., Giller, K. E., Merckx, R., Mokwunye, U., Ohiokpehai, O., Pypers, P., Tabo, R., Shepherd, K. D., Smaling, E. M. A., Woomer, P. L., & Sanginga, N. (2010). Integrated Soil Fertility Management: Operational Definition and Consequences for Implementation and Dissemination. Outlook on Agriculture, 39(1), 17–24. https://doi.org/10.5367/000000010791169998
  • Vanlauwe, B., Descheemaeker, K., Giller, K. E., Huising, J., Merckx, R., Nziguheba, G., Wendt, J., & Zingore, S. (2015). Integrated soil fertility management in sub-Saharan Africa: Unravelling local adaptation. Soil, 1, 491–508.
  • Zougmoré, R., Ouattara, K., Mando, A., & Ouattara, B. (2004). Rôle des nutriments dans le succès des techniques de conservation des eaux et des sols (cordons pierreux, bandes enherbées, zaï et demi lunes) au Burkina Faso. Science et Changements Planétaires/ Sécheresse, 15(1), 41–48.

Burkina Faso: Irrigation

The agricultural sector in Burkina Faso is heavily dependent on water from precipitation. Since precipitation is increasingly erratic, irrigation can help farmers to adapt to these changing conditions. Irrigation can be defined as the artificial process of applying water to crops or land in order to support plant growth. The FAO distinguishes between three types of irrigation: (1) surface irrigation, where water flows over the land; (2) sprinkler irrigation, where water is sprayed under pressure over the land; and (3) drip irrigation, where water is directly brought to the plant (FAO, 2001).

Irrigation is a promising adaptation strategy in Burkina Faso. Irrigation can help smallholder farmers to compensate for the negative impacts of erratic and insufficient precipitation and significantly stabilise agricultural production. The results of the cost-benefit analysis show that under both emissions scenarios switching from rainfed to irrigated production of maize has a positive return on investment (see Figure 1). However, water retention, which is essential for the used irrigation systems in Burkina Faso, is dependent on seasonal variation and specific location which influence the accessibility and effect of irrigation. Besides, irrigation requires a significant investment and only becomes profitable after some years, depending on the type of irrigation system and the farm location. Continuous institutional support is usually required and care has to be taken to avoid potential maladaptive outcomes from irrigation. Water use for irrigation has to be carefully managed to prevent groundwater table decrease and associated consequences.

Specific recommendations regarding irrigation in Burkina Faso are:

  • Low-cost irrigation options with low maintenance requirements can be promoted across Burkina Faso, where water resources are available.
  • Awareness raising about water-saving irrigation management is crucial to ensure a long-term responsible use of natural resources.
  • Ideally, water saving equipment, such as drip irrigation and smart irrigation systems, are promoted and supported by extension services to encourage farmers to use sustainable and environmentally responsible techniques.
  • Provision of support services is needed to ensure the ability of farmers to further operate the technology and take care of their maintenance.
  • For upscaling irrigation, all user interests in water and energy should be carefully considered. Dispute settlement mechanisms can be implemented to address potential conflicts between upstream and downstream users.
  • Developing financing mechanism, such as access to loans or credits, can support the accessibility for irrigation equipment.
Figure 1: Development of the net present value of switching to rainfed maize cultivation under supplementary irrigation, Source: Own figure based on own calculations.


  • FAO. (2001). Irrigation Manual: Planning, Development, Monitoring and Evaluation of Irrigated Agriculture with Farmer Participation. FAO.

Burkina Faso: Climate information

Information and knowledge exchange are key to managing climate risks and mitigating climate-related impacts on agricultural crops, water resources and food security. Climate information services (CIS) can help to bridge existing information and knowledge gaps. Tall (2013) defines CIS as a timely decision aide based on climate information that assists individuals and organisations to improve ex-ante planning, policy and practical decision-making. CIS thus include the production, translation, dissemination and use of climate information for different target audiences, usually in climate-sensitive sectors, such as agriculture, water, health or disaster risk reduction (Carr, et al., 2020; Tall, 2013). According to Zongo et al. (2015), CIS usually provide seasonal estimates of the starting and ending dates of the rainy season, the length of the rainy season, the number of days with precipitation, the annual cumulative precipitation, and the average and maximum duration of dry spells during the rainy season.

Several studies have shown the positive impact of CIS on crop yields which underlines its great potential as an adaptation strategy. Having access to actionable climate information can help farmers to make informed decisions and thereby reduce the impact of climate risks. With a rather small-scale investment and its positive return, CIS represents a highly beneficial strategy. However, setting up well-functioning CIS requires high institutional and technical support.

Based on the literature review, multi-criteria assessment and CBA (see Figure 1), specific recommendations can be given to support the implementation of CIS:

  • Awareness raising campaigns can help to inform farmers and rural communities about the great advantage of CIS and gain trust in the information received. Trainings on CIS can help farmers and especially rural women to fully understand the communicated information and to be able to act on it. Ensuring that women and other minority groups have equal access to CIS can help to promote gender equality in agricultural production.
  • For now, existing communication channels (radio, television, word of mouth) represent the most effective way for CIS upscaling but new information channels (mobile phones, smartphones, internet-based devices) and sources are being developed throughout Burkina Faso and should be considered to reach maximum coverage.
  • Access to modern information and communication technology (e.g. smartphone, internet) should be supported.
  • CIS should be targeted to the various end-users needs. An analysis along the whole value chain and gender-disaggregated data can help to identify those needs and develop target-oriented formats and make communication more effective.
  • When disseminating information through CIS it is crucial to ensure timely and actionable communication in the local language(s) and effective use of e.g. visualisation and audio formats to overcome the access barrier for poor educated or illiterate people.
Figure 1: Development of the net present value of switching to rainfed maize cultivation using climate information, Source: Own figure based on own calculations.


  • Carr, E. R., Goble, R., Rosko, H. M., Vaughan, C., & Hansen, J. (2020). Identifying Climate Information Services Users and Their Needs in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Review and Learning Agenda. Climate and Development, 12(1), 23–41. https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2019.1596061
  • Tall, A. (2013). What Do We Mean by Climate Services? WMO Bulletin.
  • Zongo, B., Diarra, A., Barbier, B., Zorom, M., Yacouba, H., & Dogot, T. (2015). Farmers’ Perception and Willingness to Pay for Climate Information in Burkina Faso. Journal of Agricultural Science, 8(1), 175. https://doi.org/10.5539/jas.v8n1p175

PIK presents climate risks in the Sahel at COP26

The climate risk profile for the Sahel, which was developed under the UNHCR Predictive Analytics project and in support of the work of the UN Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel, was presented at yesterday’s COP26 EU side event.

The event titled “Climate impacts as drivers of displacement: science, human rights and policy response” was co-organised by the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission – DG International Cooperation and Development of the European Commission (INTPA), the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK).

After a short introduction by the moderator Claudio Rosmino (Euronews), the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, gave opening remarks highlighting the human rights impacts that are being felt where migration is driven or influenced by climate change, and the need to put the human rights of migrants at the centre of policy responses. The opening remarks were followed by two inputs from the scientific community: first, Fabrizio Natale from the European Commission-JRC presented the latest research findings, showcasing the high exposure levels of many regions in Africa to climate change. Second, Sophie von Loeben from PIK presented the key results of the climate risk profile of the Sahel, showcasing the projected impacts of climate change on food security in the Sahel and its effects on displacement. Both highlighted the need to invest in adaptation, especially in rural areas to promote resilient livelihoods, food and nutrition security and ensure people can migrate by choice, and not out of necessity.

The presentations were followed by input from Angèl Dikongué-Atàngana, UNHCR, who highlighted the high levels of vulnerability and exposure to climate impacts and the subsequent high numbers of displacement in the Southern Africa region. Afterwards, Bina Desai from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre and Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, from the Human Rights Council spoke about the reinforcing interlinkages of climate vulnerability and conflict leading to increasing risks of internal displacement. The event was closed with a statement by Chiara Adamo, Acting Director for Human Development, Migration, Governance and Peace at the European Commission, DG INTRPA.

The recording of the event can be viewed here. The climate risk profile can be downloaded here.

Climate risk analysis for Burkina Faso launched at COP

The launch of the climate risk analysis for Burkina Faso took place during a side event at the German Pavilion. The event was co-organised by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

After a warm welcome by the moderator Sandra Schuster (GIZ), His Excellency Siméon Sawadogo (Minister of the Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change of Burkina Faso) gave the first opening remark, in which he stressed Burkina Faso’s vulnerability to climate change, which causes increasingly frequent and intense flooding, heatwaves and droughts. These extreme events, he further elaborated, have impacts on different natural resources, such as water and forests, and thus on livelihoods, such as farming and livestock rearing, particularly affecting women, youth and children. In terms of his expectations of COP26, Sawadogo demanded clear decisions and called for joint climate action. Dr. Heike Henn, who gave an opening remark on behalf of BMZ, agreed with Sawadogo on the urgency of the climate crisis, not only in Burkina Faso but all over the world, including Germany. She further stressed the importance of faster, more targeted and innovative climate action, highlighting the role of scientific data and information in adaptation planning. Afterwards, Prof. Dr. Christoph Gornott (PIK) presented key results of the climate risk analysis for Burkina Faso, which served as an entry point for a panel discussion, including His Excellency Siméon Sawadogo, Andrew Harper (UNHCR), Hartmut Behrendt (GIZ), Ellysar Baroudy (World Bank) and Prof. Dr. Christoph Gornott. The panelists shared their ideas on effective dissemination of climate information to different stakeholders and translation of climate polices into local action.

The recording of the event can be viewed via the media library of the German Pavilion. For the full scientific report (draft) and the executive summary of the climate risk for Burkina Faso, please visit our Downloads section.

Launch of the climate risk analysis for Burkina Faso

The launch will take place during a side event at the German Pavilion. The event is co-organised by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The high-level panel discussion will shed light on the latest research findings regarding climate impacts in the Sahel and discuss ways of scaling up efforts to support evidence-based adaptation planning.

The side event will be streamed on the event platform: www.german-climate-pavilion.de

On the day of the event, the study, as well as an executive summary will be made available on this page.

PIK team organised expert panel at Adaptation Futures 2020 Conference

The Adaptation Futures 2020 conference took place in New Delhi from October 4-8, 2021 and was co-hosted by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and the World Adaptation Science Program (WASP). The expert panel was jointly organised by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF).

During the session, gaps in the implementation of agricultural adaptation strategies were discussed and opportunities to bridge these gaps were showcased. The session was opened with three keynote speeches: Dr. Dorothe Nett, Head of Rural Development at GIZ, spoke about the importance of science to inform climate adaptation in agriculture within the context of German development cooperation. Ms. Lisa Murken, scientist at PIK, gave an overview of potential scientific methods to assess climate impacts on agriculture, in particular the AGRICA approach, and presented key learnings from the AGRICA project. Dr. Antwi-Boasiako Amoah, Deputy Director, Climate Change, National Coordinator NAP Project from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Ghana gave key insights into the complexities of translating scientific evidence into policy and planning at national and local levels.

After a short round of Question and Answers, scientists and practitioners gave short presentations on concrete examples of how to bridge gaps in the implementation of agricultural adaptation strategies. Dr. Roopam Shukla, scientist at PIK, presented findings from a global systematic review showcasing the importance of integrating farmers’ agency in adaptation planning. This was followed by a presentation by Dr. Abel Chemura, scientist at PIK, on lessons learned from a participatory process selecting agroforestry systems for maize yield as a climate change adaptation strategy in Ethiopia. These scientific presentations were complemented by a presentation held by Ms. Isabell Kiener, international expert on the development of climate resilient value chains in the GIZ project “Adaptation to climate change of agricultural value chains (PrAda)” in Madagascar, who showed how digital approaches, direct exchange with local producers, consideration of existing structures and the local context helped to enable better decision-making of farmers and their implementation of appropriate actions for adaptation to climate change.

The session not only showcased and underlined the importance of science-based adaptation planning, but also highlighted that there is often a disconnect between science and implementers at policy and local levels. To overcome this gap, the scientific approach of designing adaptation strategies needs to be complemented by participatory processes including farmers, policy makers and other stakeholders to ensure the adaptation efforts are suitable for the location and cater for the various needs of the different stakeholders.

The session was moderated by Ms. Sophie von Loeben, Scientist and Project Coordinator at PIK.

Launch of the climate risk analysis for Northern Ghana

The launch took place as part of a virtual side event at the Africa Climate Week 2021. After a welcome by Prof. Dr. Christoph Gornott (PIK) and a keynote speech by Samuel Lanidune (ProNet North Ghana), Paula Aschenbrenner (PIK) presented the results of the climate risk analysis, along with four short documentary films*, which were produced to highlight key results. The presentation was followed by a round table, including Dr. Antwi-Boasiako Amoah (Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana), Samuel Lanidune, Joyce Okrah (a commercial farmer), Dr. Francis Xavier Jarawura (University for Development Studies, Wa/Ghana), Dr. Abel Chemura (PIK) and Prosper Wie (GIZ). In a lively discussion, the panelists shared innovative ideas and solutions in support of climate adaptation and planning, making clear that collaborative efforts from all sides are needed to act upon the increasing risks of climate change and to overcome constraints to effective adaptation.

The recording of the event can be viewed via YouTube. For the full analysis and complimentary documents, please visit our Downloads section.

* Translations into Dagbani, Dagaari and Sissali will be released soon and are developed by UDS, BvR Producties and EU-REACH.


PIK will host a side event at the Africa Climate Week 2021

Under the title “From science to action – climate risk analyses to support adaptation policies and planning at a local level in sub-Saharan Africa”, the event seeks to identify best practices and design principles for better integrating climate information into adaptation actions on a local and regional scale.

The event will provide two impulses from a practitioner and a scientist highlighting their views on the need of climate information for adaptation planning. Afterwards, a round table will bring together representatives from science, international organizations, governments and practitioners working around the topic of agriculture in rural areas in northern Ghana and beyond. At the end, we reserved a lot of time for your questions. For the full agenda, please click here.

Date: Sunday, 26 September 2021 from 4.00 pm to 6.00pm (GMT+3/EAT)

You are welcome to register for the event via this link.

For any wishes or questions feel free to contact Paula Aschenbrenner.