Poverty in Burkina Faso is estimated to affect 48% of the rural population. In 2010, 9% of the rural population of the country, which amounts to approximately 1.1 million people, was living on degrading agricultural land. Moreover, between the years 2000 and 2010, the number of people living on degrading agricultural land grew by 365 thousand, representing an increase of 53% over the decade. By 2010, 409 thousand people or 4% of Burkina Faso's rural population resided in remote degrading agricultural areas without market access, number which increased by 50% between 2000 and 2010.  The intensification and expansion of land degradation may severely affect labor productivity, ultimately jeopardizing agricultural livelihoods in the country. 

The total annual cost of land degradation is estimated at USD 1.8 billion, equal to 26% of the country's GDP. A considerable share of the costs of land degradation (48%) is due to the decline in provisioning ecosystem services (e.g. food availability, wood production, etc.), which has a significant impact on the population of the country. The remaining share refers to the regulating ecosystem services (e.g. carbon sequestration, water regulation flows), which has an impact not only at the country level, but also on the regional and global scale due to the transboundary nature of these services that provide incentives for international cooperation [1] .

Disputes over land are a widespread problem across Burkina Faso and may be increasing in frequency and scale. In addition, land degradation is of particular concern. According to the Strategic Investment Framework for Sustainable Land Management (CSI-GDT, 2014), 9,234,500 ha of Burkina Faso's land, or 34% of the territory, is degraded. The annual increase in degraded land reaches between 105,000 and 250,000 ha.



Overgrazing, soil degradation and deforestation are major contributions to the degradation of land in Burkina Faso[2]. Other primary drivers include population pressure, degradation of natural resources through mismanagement and multiple legal and customary land tenure regimes, growing demand for agriculture, pastoralism and wood cutting [3].

The Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector is an important source of GHG in the country, being responsible for 83% of its total emissions [1].


Key policies and governance approach

To some extent government policies have encouraged migration. For example, the legal declaration in place since the first RAF in 1984 that “land belongs to all the people of Burkina Faso” has encouraged people of means to seek opportunities beyond their natal regions and has instilled a sense of powerlessness among local populations who might wish to assert their customary claims. The sentiment is echoed today in the declared objective of the 2009 Rural Land Law to promote equal access to land on the part of all Burkinabé. In addition, government agricultural policies have at times promoted “professionalization” of agriculture by increasing external investment to remedy the shortcomings of family farming [3].


Successes and remaining challenges

Burkina Faso has achieved remarkable progress in soil and water conservation. Sustainable agriculture techniques have driven a ‘re-greening’ of large parts of Burkina Faso that have in turn led to higher agricultural outputs and more efficient use of water [2].

The challenges presented by land degradation and climate variability affect farmers as well as herders, and have spurred internal migration to more developed areas of the south and southwest, where irrigated agriculture and commercial investments are increasingly found, and to less developed areas in the east, where available land is relatively more abundant. In both instances, these demographic reconfigurations have contributed to conflicts over land. In the south, intra familial disputes occur over the sale of land to “outsiders” from elsewhere in the country, while in the east disagreements are common over the duration and validity of tacit agreements allowing newcomers to cultivate unused plots of land.


Initiatives and Development Plans

Burkina Faso has been effective in developing coherent and often innovative sectoral policies and legislation to address interdependent governance domains and intersecting objectives, including: land tenure, (RAF 2012), Rural Land Tenure (Law 034-2009/AN), decentralization (Law No. 55-2004/AN), rural development (the PNSR), the environment (REDD+ Strategy and REDD+ Implementation Plan), and pasture resource conservation and management (PNDEL). Many of these strategies, policies and laws, at least on paper, lend themselves to mutual coordination and a degree of integration. All of them require a minimum level of technical, administrative, governance and financial capacity for their effective implementation.


Goals and Ambitions

In 2018, the Government of Burkina Faso set an ambition to restore 5 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 as part of the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative (AFR100), a continent-wide effort covering 100 million hectares of land.




  • Improving land quality and living standards of the rural population requires policy responses that improve the condition of terrestrial ecosystems by avoiding, reducing and reversing degraded land;
  • Investments, particularly in hotspot locations characterized by both high restoration potential and high socioeconomic benefits in poverty areas, will improve the conditions of the most vulnerable people and increase the resilience of ecosystems.