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Climate risks and environmental degradation: The view of society in Burkina Faso

For several years, the media have regularly covered natural disasters, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc. caused by climate change, which are occurring at increasingly regular intervals. Despite the great news on these phenomena and their growing importance for the future, the African continent, in particular the sub-Saharan region, which is particularly affected by climate change, has until now been a sort of blind spot, explains the researchers Bjoern Schueler and Sissy Sepp from the University of Marburg in “ Klima und Gesellschaft im Wandel”.

Throughout the world, many scientific disciplines and the media deal with the causes, consequences and study the social relationship of climate change, environmental degradation, their risks and impact on society. In Burkina Faso, although some specialists understand the phenomenon, society's view remains diverse and not clearly established.

The opinion survey on the perception of Burkinabè Internet users on climate change and environmental degradation, conducted by the Observatory for the Analysis of Educational and Social Issues in Burkina (OPES), in which we participated which measured the knowledge of a few citizens about climate change obviously demonstrates this. This perception study made it possible, among other things, to assess the threats considered most worrying by Burkinabè Internet users; to evaluate the actions considered to be the most effective for protecting the environment and combating climate change.

This study report shows that less than 25% of Internet users consider global warming and environmental degradation to be a major threat, with only 20% considering air pollution to be a worrying threat.

For Ousseni Bancé, a social psychologist by training, even if “climate change refers to the upheavals observed in the cycle of natural phenomena such as rain, wind, the state of the soil, the nature of the wind... and that in Burkina it manifests itself through the destructive force of the rains in cities, the disappearance or progressive crumbling of certain animals or plants, the majority of populations have not yet succeeded in associating the causes and their direct effects. For example, the heron, companion of oxen or certain scavengers have completely disappeared from certain localities where they were easily found. But unfortunately it does not challenge populations on the direct relationship with environmental problems. “Talking about climate change also means talking about the warming of the earth, which is felt by the weather and by the intense heat observed in localities in Burkina,” he explains.

As for the risks linked to climate change, they are multiple and perceived by populations without knowing the direct causes, according to Mr. Bancé. The first is the failure to control the rain cycle. “In a country where family and rural agriculture are dominated by traditional sciences based on interpretations and transmission of ancestral knowledge, it is a safe bet that irregular rains have an impact on yields. Seeds are also used according to their reaction to heat, cold and rainfall. Changes at this level will certainly cause damage. The cities of Burkina, in terms of planning, do not necessarily take natural phenomena into account. Which would explain the flooding and other problems. »

For Burkinabè journalist Boureima Salouka, a large part of the population recognizes themselves well in nature and is aware of these changes. “I am attached to the quality of the environment in all dimensions, namely the quality of plants, animals, water… an attachment linked to my family environment since childhood,” he says.

For him, the perception of climate change is vast because it is a dynamic of evolution which impacts life in all senses of the term and which is of particular interest to Burkina Faso as a Sahel country with a very large demographic but also with quite serious environmental problems. “The deterioration of the plant cover, the soil, the quality of groundwater and surface water, etc., particularly due to gold panning and the use of mercury and cyanide. This affects us directly with consequences on our lives. On the political and security (military) and especially food levels. » With all this, there are problems and even dangers; but also opportunities for countries like Burkina to innovate and do things differently.

As for the social consequences of climate change, “they are there before our eyes and it is what we call the Sahel crisis”. For journalist Salouka, “many people were quick to see this as a fact of Islamism, of radicalization, of the weakness of States, but what must be remembered is that this crisis also has an environmental dimension. » With countries where demographic growth is very strong and where we see the scarcity of natural resources, it is what has led to a competition for their control and which has quickly degenerated into conflict “that we are falsely trying to disguised as intercommunity conflicts. » These are conflicts due to the scarcity of resources and competition for their appropriation and control. We are talking more and more about climate refugees in the world but also in our countries. “Several young people from the Sahel who brave the Sahara to cross the Atlantic face all these problems. And internally we are witnessing a recomposition of populations.

Faced with this, it must be said that we are witnessing fundraising campaigns and charities that draw attention to disasters in the Sahel sporadically. However, the interest of the general global public quickly diminishes after his spontaneous actions. There is virtually no interdisciplinary exchange between climate scientists and social scientists when it comes to the effects of climate change on this part of the world, let alone the existence of articles on the social perception of phenomenon. It is time for this blind spot to be brought a little more into the field of vision of the general public in order to allow the populations of this part of the world and particularly of Burkina to be at the heart of debates on climate change and the degradation of the environment. 'environment.

Belélé Jérôme William Bationo


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