7 Jun 2018

A concrete partnership for nature conservation in Burkina Faso

It’s a first for Burkina Faso... a love story between environmental organization NATURAMA (BirdLife - Burkina Faso) and the private cement factory CIMBURKINA. Their common aim is to strengthen nature conservation and improve community livelihoods at the cement plant's operating sites.

An alliance between a conservation organisation and a cement company is benefiting the community © NATURAMA
The alliance between nature and commerce is benefiting community livelihoods © NATURAMA
By Seydou Nacro (NATURAMA) and Blandine Mélis (BirdLife Africa)

This timely partnership takes place in a setting where Burkina Faso’s nature is bending under the pressure of human activity. The unbridled race towards raw materials, and the imperative of economic development, is not always compatible with sustainable production and consumption. It’s an age-old tale : humanity’s needs are unlimited, but resources are rare. Our current mode of development is reaching its limits, and it is necessary to find a new balance between man and his environment.

The Ministry of the Environment, Green Economy and Climate Change paints a bleak picture. According to the third State of the Environment Report, Burkina Faso's most recurrent environmental problems are numerous: "Degradation of land and water resources, degradation of forest resources and disappearance of wildlife resources, an unsustainable energy system, growing problems of urban environment and pollution, erosion of biodiversity, climate change with adverse effects and environmental governance characterized by enormous shortcomings." The list is long...

However, concrete actions are being taken to moderate some of these difficulties. The resources of environmental organisations may be limited, but when they join forces with other partners, the impact is considerable. To this end, NATURAMA (BirdLife in Burkina Faso) has joined forces with CIMBURKINA (a subsidiary of the Heidelberg Cement Group).

Local women's' groups are being trained in beekeeping © NATURAMA

CIMBURKINA wants to green its image by strengthening its social responsibility in the country.  To do this, it relies on NATURAMA's environmental expertise, which acts as a technical assistant. It is in the rural commune of Dandé, in the west of the country, where the cement plant exploits limestone, that an in-depth study was carried out by the environmental organization. An action plan based on an ecological and socio-economic diagnosis was developed in close collaboration with local populations and the tripartite action strategy (2018-2022) was validated and adopted by the Municipal Council in November 2017.

This action plan is divided into different components and the cement plant undertakes to support the commune in the acquisition of technical equipment (agriculture, environment, animal resources, etc.). It also ensures the improvement of health and educational services. Training is organized for the benefit of the population to ensure better exploitation and development of natural resources and agricultural land. Forest resources are particularly targeted through the classification and management of communal forests.  Other concrete activities are dedicated to the socio-economic development of women and young people (shea butter production, construction of school infrastructures, protection of water sources), thus improve living conditions and strengthen social cohesion.

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In addition to the cement plant's strong support for the local population, the company is heavily involved with NATURAMA and sponsors many of its activities. For example, part of the conservation actions in the Po National Park, known as Kaboré Tambi, have been taken over by the company to strengthen the overall resilience of the agroforestry park and facilitate the livelihoods of the 10 riverside villages. These actions include training on sustainable farming and modern beekeeping techniques, and support for equipping women's groups with soap production equipment.

While support for income-generating activities is a strong component of this partnership, environmental education is not left out and CIMBURKINA is also considering financing the continuation of environmental education activities in Ouagadougou, the country's capital. The aim is not only to increase young people's awareness of the protection of their Nature, but also to enhance CIMBURKINA's visibility as an environmentally friendly company: a fruitful alliance for mutual benefits.

This "win-win" partnership demonstrates that environmental organizations and resource companies are not in a conflicting balance of power, but can work together hand in hand for a healthier and better-protected environment.

This work is part of a larger project funded by the UK Government’s (DEFRA) Darwin Initiative: ‘Building Resilient Landscapes Livelihoods in the Shea Parklands of Burkina Faso’.