In the dry Sahel of central Burkina Faso, the months before the harvest are tough. The granaries are empty, and forests are just a memory.
“Everything is green, the crops are almost mature – but that is moment when people are most food insecure, because they are waiting for the new harvest and the old one is gone,” explained Houria Djoudi, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).
Demographic, economic and environmental changes have put pressure on almost all the region’s forests, leaving a degraded landscape stricken with erosion, drought and infertile soils.
But tiny patches of restored forest are now giving families a safety net at this hardest time of year. Just three hectares of fenced-off land gives a household access to leaves, nuts, beans and fodder for their own use or to sell to buy grain, Djoudi and colleagues found in a new study.
The study looked at the impact of a program run by local NGO Tiipaalga and supported by the FFEM (Fond Francais de L’Environnement Mondial). Since 2003 Tiipaalga has been helping people in the three provinces of Central Burkina Faso – Kadiogo, Kourweogo and Oubritenga – to protect just three hectares of their land.