Yatenga context & history for agroecology
Around 1980, the Yatenga region had average population of up to100 persons/km2. The Yatenga region also had the reputation of being the most degraded region of Burkina Faso. Its population increased from 250.000 inhabitants in 1930 to 530.000 in 1975. The increase in population densities and the growing pressure on available natural resources was not accompanied by a process of agricultural intensification. Instead, it induced a process of extensification. The specter of drought, poverty, famine and environmental degradation pushed many farmers in this region with their backs against the wall. They either had to migrate to other more favorable regions and many did so, or they had to learn how to cope with or overcome these problems. In 1977 the Rural Development Fund (FDR II) started with the construction of graded earth bunds in the Yatenga. These were laid out on small blocks of cultivated village fields (30 – 60 ha). Their objective was to conserve rainfall and reduce erosion. In this difficult context both farmers and NGO technicians started to experiment with SWC techniques. The farmers concentrated on improving traditional planting pits or zaï and NGO technicians concentrated on contour stone bunds. The combination of both techniques proved to be very efficient in the rehabilitation of strongly degraded land. In other words, agricultural intensification in this region started in the early 1980s when SWC technologies became available, which were simple, as they could be mastered by all farmers, and efficient in the sense that they immediately increased yields.