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Reforestation and smart farming for a sustainable food system

Working with farmers in Burkina Faso, we will restore forest cover while increasing food production through better farming practices.

Photo of Madjalia Seynou
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Lead Applicant Organization Name


Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Small NGO (under 50 employees)

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.


Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • Under 1 year

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Bergenfield, NJ

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United States of America

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Centre-Ouest is an administrative region of Burkina Faso that covers 21,722 Square km.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Burkina Faso

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

FarmSahel has deep ties to Burkina Faso and the Centre-Ouest region. Five of our six board members, including Madjalia Seynou, the founder, are from Burkina Faso and three still reside there. Madjalia and the board treasurer grew up in the Centre-Ouest region Madjalia grew up in Fara, a typical village of the south western part of Burkina Faso. Her parents moved there when she was 6, and she spent her childhood as well as most of her adolescent life there. Her family did not have many resources or opportunities to have new toys every Christmas or gifts on birthdays, but they had what it takes to have an extraordinary childhood, filled with joy and laughter. Most families in the region live on subsistence farming, the adults leave early in the morning for their farms, while the women cook the meal for the day and join the men later with the food. Madjalia spent all her school breaks in Leo, another village in the Centre-Ouest region, not far from Fara. She spent her time there helping her grandparents with farm work and house chores, such as cleaning and fetching water from the stream, walking long distances with huge water cans on her head. The small town of Léo serves as the provincial capital of Centre-Ouest. It is located 165 kilometers south of the national capital, Ouagadougou, and 13 kilometers north of the Republic of Ghana. The climate is favorable for farming, which is the main occupation of people. The green environment, comfortable weather, fresh air, and the simple life of people made it an ideal place to grow up. Both women still have family in the Centre-Ouest region, and care deeply about the place and its people.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Centre-Ouest is one of Burkina Faso's 13 administrative regions, with four provinces (Boulkiemdé, Sanguié, Sissili, and Ziro). The region's capital is Koudougou. As of 2010, the population was 1,310,644, approximately 8% of the total population of Burkina Faso. Fifty-four percent of the population is female. The child mortality rate is 61, with higher rates for infants. The literacy rate in the region is 28.8 per cent. The average elevation is around 660 ft. to 980 ft., and the climate is generally sunny, hot, and dry. The country comprises two different climate zones: The Sahelian, in the north, which is semiarid and gets three to five months of rainfall, which is often erratic; and the Sudanic, in the south, which is more of the tropical wet-dry type, with a greater variability of temperature and rainfall and greater total rainfall. Citizens of Burkina Faso are collectively known as Burkinabé. In Centre-Ouest, the major ethnolinguistic group is Gurunsi. French is the official language, although the majority of the population speaks Lyélé. People are mostly Christians even though the country is 60% Muslim. Common Dishes in Leo include tô, polenta-style cakes served with kanzaga, a sauce made with wild leaves and peanut. Meat is rare except for ceremonial and ritual occasions including weddings, births, and funerals. Dôlo is a local beer made from pearl millet or sorghum wheat. Burkina Faso’s yearly population growth rate is more than double the world average, and more than 40% of the population is younger than 15. The average life expectancy is just above 60 years—lower than the global average. The eastern and central regions are densely settled and contain about half the total population. More than two-thirds of the people are rural and live in villages, which tend to be grouped toward the center of the country at higher elevations away from the Volta river valleys. About 90% of the population is engaged in subsistence agriculture. However, difficult economic conditions, made worse by severe droughts, have provoked considerable migration from rural to urban areas. The soil texture in the region is poor, and deforestation has weakened agricultural production. Typical crops are sugarcane, sorghum, millet, corn, peanuts, cassava, sweet potatoes, beans, and rice. Animals raised include cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, donkeys, horses, camels, chickens, ducks, and guinea fowl. Leo is one of the few villages in Burkina that doesn’t have a traditional king in the village. Many people live together in houses built with solid wood and mud walls and flat roofs. Leo has a market which is the center of community. Social issues in the region include alcohol abuse, HIV/AIDS, child labor, and poor living conditions. University graduates are usually the hopes of their parents and sometimes of an entire ethnic group. Even for university graduates, however, it is increasingly difficult to find jobs. That’s why we have to make farming attractive for them.

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

When Madjalia visited the Centre-Ouest region in 2015, she was shocked. The beautiful forest she had grown up with had vanished before her eyes. According to a report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 9 million hectares of productive land in Burkina Faso have been degraded, and .4 million hectares more are expected to follow suit each year. With one of the highest population growths in Africa, the country will face more pressure on resources and more people will be at risk. Deforestation is the result of several factors: severe droughts and flooding, violence brought on from terrorist attacks from neighboring Mali and other countries, and the extreme poverty of the region that often leads to poor farming practices. 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. Burkina Faso is prone to drought and floods, climate-related events that threaten livelihoods and food security. The Country experiences low and variable rainfalls, land degradation, deforestation and desertification. The 2011/12 Sahel drought left many vulnerable to food insecurity. Around 45 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. Even when food availability is good, many poor farming and pastoralist families struggle to buy the food they need. In addition to drought and flooding, wildfires are also a factor in deforestation and desertification. According to the 2016-2017 agricultural general report provided by the Burkina Faso government, wildfires affected 0.5% of the country as a whole and were more prevalent in Central West (1.1%). Geopolitical factors also come into play as a factor that has increased the region’s population growth rate. In 2015, Burkina joined the group of Sahel countries under attack from armed and criminal groups that are mainly based in Mali, but that also operate from several countries in the region. The area most affected by these attacks is the Sahel region, in the north of the country, on the border with Mali and Niger. Many residents of those areas have fled the terrorist violence in the Sahel Region, and have taken refuge in Centre Ouest.. On top of all these factors, which are largely out of the control of residents, lack of education of responsible farming techniques is also at fault. With a growing population and not enough resources to support everyone, farmers in the region have used the practice of ‘slash and burn’ to clear land for cultivation as a means of increasing food security while trying to lift themselves out of poverty. This happens both because farmers want more land to raise more food, and also because the land they are farming becomes rapidly depleted from lack of fertilizer and other responsible farming techniques. They are also using tools that are not as sophisticated as those used in developed countries, which leads to inefficiencies, so farmers are using up a lot of land in order to produce enough crops.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The primary challenge to food insecurity in the Centre-Ouest region is deforestation, along with poor farming practices, both of which put food supply chains at great risk. Our vision will address these challenges through a combination of education, advocacy, and substantive support for the farming community. With the support of the Rockefeller Foundation’s Food Vision Prize, we will help to create a sustainable agriculture system. Our goals are to: 1. Increase agricultural production and productivity (by providing equipment, training to farmers, and engaging rural youth in agribusinesses, and other objectives). 2. Ensure appropriate natural resource management, including land tenure (provide training) 3. Improve farmers’ marketing capacities (help them market their harvest) 4. Expand access to credit (help them with seeds and fertilizers using a credit system). 5. Stop deforestation, restoring peatlands and degraded land 6. Encourage innovative technologies and farming methods that lower agricultural GHG emissions. Farmers are the interface between the planet and the people, so the environmental impact of farming is in their hands.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Reforestation and smart farming for a sustainable food system will have a profound impact on the region. We will educate farmers on best practices for sustainable food production and land management, while at the same time providing support in the form of newer equipment and technology that will help them manage the land and incentivize them to adopt the new practices. In addition, the project will make farming more efficient and profitable, which will draw younger Burkinabes back to the farms that they have fled in search of a better life.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

In development

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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