Growing things in Burkina Faso

Now that barrages (reservoirs) are common in Burkina Faso, people in some locations can grow crops most of the year, and even flowers during certain months. They rely on a little irrigation, available barrage water, and some wells that can now keep water most of the year. The ground is hard and dry and challenging, to say the least, but still the most common work of the Burkinabè people is cultivation. See below the photos for some thoughts on why composting doesn't seem to work.



Click on a thumbnail to view the larger photo.

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My friends Léopold and Brigitte in their cabbage patch. They are "fonctionnaires" (professionals: he is a teacher and she works in the tax office), and they also raise a few crops to eat, give, and sell. They use their well water to keep things growing.

December 1999



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Cabbage, potatoes, carrots, onions, and green beans are among crops planted near the barrages at Séguénéga and Ouahigouya.

December 1999

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Bougainvillea everywhere! 
(slightly past its peak in these pictures from April (the dry season) in Ouahigouya)

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More bougainvillea in Bobo-Dioulasso (where it's much rainier than in the northern part of the country)>

August 2001


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At the local hospital in Ouahigouya, it almost looks like a xeriscape garden from Texas, including lantana! 

April 2000



Why composting doesn't seem to work well in Burkina Faso:

I tried several times to start a compost pile in my yard. I thought it would help with trash and with the quality of the soil. However, every time I started a pile of food scraps and yard waste, my helpers (students and friends) kept cleaning it up and putting it outside the fence with the trash, even after I explained what it was and what went into it and what I was going to do with it and how wonderful it could be for the soil. Finally a friend explained to me that it was no use to try to hang on to old food, because someone (person or animal) would/could eat it. In a country used to scarcity of food, I finally understood and gave up. They put straight manure on plants sometimes, but the ground continues to be quite challenging.


All photos and essays are copyright Cathy Seeley. All rights reserved. No photo or text may be reproduced without permission except for small group educational purposes (thanks for giving appropriate credit). 
For other uses, please contact Cathy Seeley.

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