Climate change in Burkina Faso: ‘Water scarcity is one of our greatest challenges’
Drought, extreme heat and a shorter wet season. Climate change is hitting the Sahel hard. Kevin Dipama lives in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the region. As a local expert for the NGO World Waternet he is committed to safeguarding the supply and quality of the country’s water.
On the African continent, the impact of climate change is clear to see. ‘In the summer the average temperature used to be around 38 degrees,’ says Kevin. ‘But now it often soars beyond 40 degrees. In the past, the wet season lasted for six months, now it lasts for just three. And the plant and tree species seen in my father’s day no longer grow in Burkina Faso.’
‘Water scarcity is one of our greatest challenges,’ he says. Most people in Burkina Faso earn their living from farming or livestock breeding. In the dry season, water shortages lead to poor harvests, and livestock die. ‘As a result, everything is really expensive. Many people can no longer afford to buy vegetables.’
Kevin believes the world must take action to stop climate change. ‘It’s important to share our experience. Countries don’t all have the same problems to contend with, but it’s easier to find solutions if we work together.’
Kevin often works together with Dutch experts. ‘World Waternet is implementing projects in Burkina Faso in the field of water management and water quality,’ he comments. ‘We share knowledge with Dutch experts, and oversee local projects.’
Pollution from goldmining
Water reservoirs are of crucial importance for farming and for Burkina Faso’s population. During the wet season, they store the excess water. But many of the reservoirs are in danger of drying up, or are badly in need of renovation. Or they are becoming polluted – through goldmining, for example.
World Waternet is therefore looking for solutions. ‘Chemicals are often used in goldmining,’ remarks Kevin. ‘If they get into the water reservoirs, they can seriously threaten the health of both people and animals. With the gold project, we’re researching alternatives, and exploring whether plants can be used to filter the water, to prevent its quality declining further.’
The gold project is funded through the Blue Deal programme, a partnership between the Dutch Water Authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. The aim of the Blue Deal programme is to solve worldwide water problems.
Plants can help improve water quality, but also pose a threat to water reservoirs. ‘Many of our reservoirs are plagued by invasive plants,’ says Kevin. ‘They absorb huge quantities of water themselves, and kill aquatic fauna. We’d like to get rid of them as quickly as possible, but that’s easier said than done. They grow really fast.’
Kevin has noticed that it’s often young people who come up with creative solutions. ‘A friend of mine turns these plants into compost and other products. We have lots of young entrepreneurs in Burkina Faso brimming with creative ideas.’
Kevin believes that young people have a major role to play in the fight against climate change. ‘Many people here have no idea what climate change is. As young people, we need to explain it to them, underscore its importance and come up with creative solutions. For example by showing that planting trees isn’t the only way of tackling CO2 emissions.’
Kevin actively campaigns to have young people’s voice heard. He is a member of Burkina Faso’s youth parliament and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Youth Advisory Committee. Together with nine other young people, Kevin advises the Dutch government on its development policies.
From 6 to 19 November, leaders of more than two hundred countries will meet at the UN climate summit (COP27), which is being held this year in Egypt. At COP27 the Netherlands will urge a specific focus on water as the key to solutions for climate and resilience issues.
Kevin hopes that the negotiations in Egypt will lead to action on the ground. ‘It’s important not just to negotiate, but also to take real steps,’ he says. ‘It’s good to share ideas, but we also need to look at what we can actually do to stop climate change.’