The University of Arizona

Migration and Land-Use and Land-Cover Change in Burkina Faso: a comparative case study

Elisabeth Kago Nebie, Colin Thor West


In the Sahelian country of Burkina Faso, West Africa, population pressure, poor resource management, and reduced rainfall have exacerbated land degradation. A rapidly growing population coupled with high rates of internal rural migration and thirty years of desiccation have resulted in profound land-use/land-cover change (LULCC) throughout the country. In the Central Plateau and northern regions of Burkina Faso, land degradation has historically stimulated large-scale out-migration toward more fertile areas in the south. While some northern provinces are being rehabilitated by Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) projects, southern provinces, considered more "pristine", have been neglected. In recent decades, researchers have attributed the initiation of land degradation processes in southern regions to this influx of migrants from the north. This study presents an empirical controlled case study between two provinces to better understand the dynamics of migration and LULC. One province, Bam Province in the north, has long been a zone of departure while Sissili Province in the south has long been a destination zone. Using a regional political ecology framework, we integrate a time series of LULCC data with demographic census data and local narratives to compare migration and LULCC trends in Bam and Sissili from 1975 to 2013. We find that in-migration correlates with substantial and dramatic LULCC while out-migration is associated with only moderate LULCC. This controlled comparison also suggests that local land-use/land-cover change and migration dynamically interact. As environmental conditions in Bam improve and Sissili deteriorate, long-term trends of either out- or in-migration for either province stabilize, and can even become reversed.

Key Words: Burkina Faso, LULCC, migration, regional political ecology

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