New research reveals extreme fluctuations between drought and flooding

By Bruce Petch, Volunteer Executive Director, World Neighbours Canada

Research findings released by the UK charity WaterAid describe how some dry regions of the world, including parts of Burkina Faso, are subject to a “whiplash” of extreme climate pressures. Periods of drought are followed by devastating floods. The research was done in partnership with the University of Bristol and Cardiff University (https://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2023/november/flooding-and-drought.html).

The research is consistent with the experience of people living in the Eastern Region of Burkina Faso. World Neighbours Canada’s partner in the country, APDC, has often reported the seemingly contradictory observations that crops suffered from drought during the growing season, but severe flooding damaged the bunds in rice fields. APDC has been working with farmers to adapt to the changing climate. One strategy is to build more rice fields in slightly low-lying areas (the terrain is quite flat). If floodwaters can be controlled, rainfed rice production has the advantage of being less reliant on the distribution of rainfall over the growing season. Another strategy is to reduce reliance on field crops by supporting livestock production, market vegetables (where wells can provide water) and processing of agricultural products such as sesame.

Unfortunately, APDC’s work is hampered by a violent insurgency in the country that has caused many rural people to leave their homes and farms and seek refuge in towns where the army is better able to maintain security.