Monday, August 15, 2011

Wetlands in Burkina Faso (lots of Pictures!)

When we were planning the English Camp activities, the men planning the week related to water said something about protecting the wetlands in Burkina Faso.  I, clever woman that I am, said “were are there any wet lands here? Everything dries up in the hot season.”  Boy was I wrong! 

I had dinner with the Permanent Secretary for Climate Change and Sustainable Development and his wife, whom I know through my son in law, and I asked him about it.  He said, "Of course there are wetlands here, and Burkina Faso is a signatory to a UN convention on preserving the wetlands."  He said, however, he would defer to his wife, who knows more about the topic.  She works for an NGO call International Union for Nature Conservation.  I think of a wetland as a swampy area, but according the definition as she explained it to me, it is any land that is covered with water for part of the year.  A river qualifies, as does an area that traps and holds water during the rainy season, even though they are dry for much of the year.  She and her husband offered to take me on a tour of a wet land area.

We went to a place where a dam has created a big lake that serves as a backup reservoir for Ouagadougou.  It is not actually used as a source of water for the city water system, but could supply water to the capital in an emergency.  It is what is called a multi-use location. First, so you can get an idea of the size of the place, here is a picture of the over-flow area, the place where the water leaves the lake when the reservoir is full.

 Here is a shot across the lake created by the dam, although I can’t show the size of the lake in one picture.

Here is one of the ways this water is used.  These guys are filling the big cubes on the back of the truck with water, to take it to Ouaga to use for building. 

Another use of the water is growing food.  Here is a canal that has been cut from the lake to a place were food is grown.  This plant is called oseille. The people use the leaves to make a sauce for tō.  It is quite acidic so you add potassium, which is a base, to it to make it taste better.

People also raise other things like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and squash as you see here at this roadside stand.

This man was raising okra, called gumbo here.

Where there is water, there are fish (sometimes).  This guy got one, but I don’t think it is a keeper.

 I am sure they actually do get good sized fish, sometimes, because we found BIG scales on the beach.  Yes, that is a single fish scale around my thumb!

Here is a fish net that was drying near the lake. Maybe that is how they get the big ones.

The dam itself is mostly made of dirt. The side toward the water is protected in some places with rocks set in concrete, like this:

We walked along the top of the dam, and my friends informed me that the folks will be removing and burning the grass growing on the dam.  If you let it grow, the roots soften the soil so it washes away.  They try to keep it packed down solidly.  I always thought the roots would help hold the soil, but that is not the way things are done here.

This is a levy, quite distance from where the water is now, that protects an experimental agricultural station. There different varieties of corn were being tried out in neat little plots, much as they do experimental plantings in the US. 

This is, in fact, a permanent wet land.  It does not have as much water in it now as it should have by this time of the year because the rains have been late and scarce this year.  Crops are way behind where they should be by this time in the growing season and it may be a bad year for farmers here.

1 comment:

  1. Regarding Burkina Faso's lack of rain this summer, Northeast Ohio has had two of its heaviest one-day rainfalls ever this summer - both days had downpours totaling more than 3.5 inches, which is equivalent to almost 9 centimeters. Interesting definition of wetlands, do they have any swamps or marshy areas at all?