Climate change in Burkina Faso: fighting through hell and high water

Noaga Ouèda, a 52-year-old farmer, lives with her 8 children and another 17 relatives in the community of Kario, Burkina Faso.
Noaga Ouèda, a 52-year-old farmer, lives with her 8 children and another 17 relatives in the community of Kario, Burkina Faso.

Climate change is directly linked to economic inequality: The poorest people on the planet are not only those who have done the least to cause it but are also those who tend to be the most vulnerable to its effects, and the least prepared to face them. Women are the most vulnerable in the population, as they are the ones with the task of providing for their families and the ones with the fewest resources to draw from in difficult times.

In Burkina Faso, 80% of the population lives on agriculture and livestock. In one of the poorest countries in the world, the effects of climate change cause even more hunger and threaten the subsistence of the inhabitants. We work so that more than 31,000 families can have access to food, drinking water, and preventative information, in a climate that is becoming more and more extreme.

Learn their stories.

Fati Marmoussa "Thanks to the training, now we have health."

Fati Marmoussa (standing with her son) attends a workshop on preventing malnutrition organized by Oxfam and ATAD, together with other women.

The extreme climate that afflicts Burkina Faso has affected the sorghum and maize fields where Fati works every day. She faces increasing difficulties in giving her children the food they need to grow up healthy. 

Fati attends the workshops, organized by Oxfam on preventing child malnutrition, in Tafgo, one of the largest villages of the district of Tougouri and one of the few with a medical center. Thanks to her training, Fati has learned to cook flour to turn it into a nutritious food and not only to satisfy hunger. In addition, now she knows the advice and methods for hygiene that she can use in order to prevent diseases: "I have changed the way that I feed my family. For mealtimes, I cover the plates and I don't just leave the food or water anywhere. Thanks to the training, we have health. "

Noaga Ouèda "Now we don't get sick. With this water, we are healthy."

Noaga Ouèda (right) collecting water from a tap together with other women in her community, which is fed by a solar powered water tower that has been installed in her community. 

Noaga's life changed when a water tower was installed in her village. Thanks to the tower, she and all of the families in her village and in the neighboring village can have access to clean water for drinking and cooking. Until then the women and children would go to find water in an improvised well, that the men had dug near to a pond, but drinking this contaminated water caused diseases: "It was very risky for us to drink the water from the pool because people even defecated in there, and we were drinking this water." 

However, Noaga, who lives on the food that she grows in the field, harvests much less because she is at the mercy of the weather: "As there has been less rain than in previous years, we are suffering a lot. Before this, we didn't know hunger, but now we are forced to ration the to (flour) so that we can give it to our children." 

Pascaline Sawadogo "These seeds have changed our lives."

Pascaline lives in Nioko, a small rural village in the district of Pissila, in north-central Burkina Faso.

Pascaline is 59 years old and spends all day working in the field. She was born in a farming family and was seven years old when they  moved to the Ivory Coast, in search of a better life. She lives on a small garden that does not provide enough food to last until the next harvest. For this reason, she goes hungry. For some years it has been getting much worse; because the dry season is much longer and the rains are more rare but more intense and unpredictable, and this means more months without food to eat. 

We distribute more resistant millet, sorghum, and niembé that matures quickly, even if there is not much rain. In this way, farmers like Pascaline can have another harvest every year and can feed themselves despite the droughts.

Nabonswendé Sawadogo "Not a day goes past without people asking me about the climate."

Nabonswendé together with her children listening to the weather report on the radio.

In July 2010, Nabonswendé's village suffered some terrible floods: "The water came violently and flooded the fields and took houses, barns and even livestock with it. We fled with the children, but we couldn't take our belongings. We stayed in the school or in neighboring villages. From that time on, people didn't know what to do to survive.

Now, Nabonswendé is part of the Early Warning Committee. Every day at 8pm, she turns on the radio to listen to the weather forecast for the next few days, and find out the best advice for working in the field based on the forecast. The information reaching her lets her know what kind of seeds to plant and when, so that her harvests are not lost if the rainy season is shorter than normal, as has happened in the last few years. Together with four other people in the committee, transmit this information so that the people in her village can take precautions.

What you can do

Nabonswendé, Pascaline, Fati and Noaga are only a few examples of the millions of people who are suffering from climate change in their lives and who are fighting to adapt.

Funds are urgently needed, both for emergency relief and to support the most vulnerable communities to build their resilience to the changing climate in the long run. Support our work, sign our petition.

Pictures by Pablo Tosco/Oxfam