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The green belt of urban agriculture in Ouagadougou

Submitted by Ase Johannessen 8th May 2022 13:48
Urban agroforestry in the Ouagadougou green belt

Urban agroforestry in the Ouagadougou green belt. Photo David Zouré 2021.


The green belt in Ouagadougou, is a practical example of how urban agriculture is part of a regreening strategy. Ouagadougou city council recently launched a reforestation program for the green belt, as part of an urban agroforestry approach. This involves officially reinstating the vegetable farmers that were illegally occupying this space. They have been charged with the upkeep of trees planted to reforest the green belt and making sure they survive. This allows cultivation, vegetable farming and forestry to thrive together, each ensuring the continuity of the other. 


Urban agriculture is part of the green belt in Ouagadougou the capital of Burkina Faso. The green belt was established in 1976, covering a surface area of 2,100 ha and stretching 21 km long, with an average width of 500 m.  It ensures the ecological balance of the capital of Burkina Faso. When created, the aim was for it to protect the city from the effects of wind and dust and bring wind and water erosion under control. It was also designed to produce firewood and create jobs and income through agroforestry. Lastly, according to its backers, the project would offer areas for leisure and relaxation for local residents. (Source:iD4D 2021).

Unfortunately, nowadays, only vestiges of the vegetation remain. Over the years, this “lung of oxygen” has been degraded by urbanization. “Estimates show that 1,050 hectares, or 50% of the green belt, has been occupied legally or illegally. The green belt is nowadays under the harmful influence of multiple actions of an anthropic nature,” notes Yacouba Ouédraogo of the Green Belt Initiative, a citizen’s movement of consultation and action for the rehabilitation and restoration of the green belt of Ouagadougou and the erection of green belts by other cities in Burkina Faso. (Source: Afrik 21 2021)

Urban agriculture creates revenue through green jobs: activities such as crop farming, nurseries and vegetable cultivation yield produce for the market, which generates income when sold. In the same way, certain kinds of urban farming, such as ornamental horticulture in green spaces or public parks, represent both aesthetic value for the urban landscape and economic value. It is also worth noting that these farmers use natural fertilizers made from biodegradable waste in running their site (Source:iD4D 2021).

A study of the urban agriculture in the green belt revealed that women represented 55% of producers. The age of the producers was between 21 and 80 years old. The surfaces managed are between 0.25 to 5 hectares. The farms found belonged to individuals 65% or families 35%. About 30 species of plants were grown for consumption or sale at the same proportions. The problems faced by farmers included lack of agricultural inputs and equipment, lack of irrigation water, low soil fertility. The solutions to overcome those problems according to the farmers included, support with fountains, fertilizers and finances. The study also found that men invested more in market oriented agriculture than women and that farmers who own land invested more in fertilizer application.

The study also found that land acquisition is continuous and not organized leading to a degradation of the green belt. For a better management of the Green belt the study suggests to develop a management plan and set up an exchange framework and precise specifications for the exploitations.

Kessler (2003) analysed different farming systems in four West African capitals (Lomé, Cotonou, Bamako and Ouagadougou). The study revealed that differences in crops and inputs of the different farming systems are derived from different economic strategies adopted by the farmers. Mixed vegetable farming with watering cans and/or with pumps cultivate short- and long-cycle vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, carrots and onions. The short-cycle crops are grown to ensure returns on inputs and salaries, while the long-cycle crops are used to maximize benefit and investment in infrastructure, or private or family life. The annual profit ranges from US$20 to US$700, depending on the management capacities and farm size. Traditional vegetable farmers (mainly women) produce mainly short-cycle crops for home consumption and sale. They prefer short-cycle crops with regular cuttings (twice a month) to ensure regular income and high returns. They cannot afford to cultivate long- cycle crops such as carrots, which require several months’ investment. But with low inputs these farmers are able to generate a monthly income, which adds up to an annual benefit of US$170 to US$200 (in 2003). Ornamental plant and/or flower producers – mostly full-time farmers – achieve an annual benefit of US$400 to US$5 000. Rainfed staple crop farmers mainly produce for home consumption. In Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Gerstl (2001) analysed households engaged in open-space vegetable production (see table 15 in Annex). The author found that these households usually belong to the low-income group. Production heavily depended on water availability (Gerstl et al., 2002). In the study period, income was not sufficient to cover expenditures and comparable to the low average monthly per capita income of US$20. (Source). 

One study highlighted two major threats for the sustainability of urban off-plot farming (not on own plots): first, the fact that urban peri-urban agriculture is usually part of the informal sector, i.e. without formal recognition or legislation; and second, that most of the land or field is not owned by producers. This lack of secure tenure and access to suitable land is a major issue (Gerstl (2001).

Agreement to rehabilitate the green belt

The International Association of Francophone Mayors (AIMF) signed in 2021 a financing agreement with the municipality of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, worth approximately 315,570 euros. This financing is intended for the rehabilitation of the green belt of Ouagadougou.

The financing agreement for the said project, planned for 2 years, was signed on September 22nd, 2021 at the Ouagadougou City Hall between the municipal executive and the AIMF.

AIMF’s financial support will be used to develop 20 ha through the planting of 8,000 seedlings, the installation of four boreholes and the fencing of the entire site for the benefit of 800 vulnerable women and youth. The city of Ouagadougou will provide 62,000 euros (more than 40 million CFA francs) to finance the project.

The parceling out of the green belt is taking place through the construction of schools, garages, places of worship, soccer fields, and housing. However, not all the occupied areas are illegal. Some have been allocated and assigned. This is the case of the Palace of Kosyam, the presidency of Faso. (Source). 

Urban farming as water adaptation

Urban farming contributes to rainwater, sewage and wastewater management by creating permeable ground. This is a key issue. In urban environments, asphalt, waterproof surfaces and building foundations cause a large amount of the ground to be impermeable. This means that a great deal of rainwater is lost. When water cannot seep into the ground, it causes runoff and erosion, or even devastating floods when not appropriately channeled and drained. With a suitable irrigation system, urban agriculture allows this water to be correctly funneled.

Urban farming also encourages urban mobility by promoting more active, greener modes of transport. It’s more pleasant to walk when your route is shaded by trees. Planting lines of trees provides vegetation along the sides of paths, lanes and roads. This approach provides a network of greenery that’s almost equal to the network of highways.

One study highlighted two major threats for the sustainability of urban off-plot farming (not on own plots): first, the fact that urban peri-urban agriculture is usually part of the informal sector, i.e. without formal recognition or legislation; and second, that most of the land or field is not owned by producers. This lack of secure tenure and access to suitable land is a major issue (Gerstl (2001).


Urban agriculture is still struggling to find its place within public policy, and Ouagadougou is a relevant example. Urban agriculture (UA) is seen as one of the solutions for ensuring food security in African cities, but it remains marginalized. In a context where urban space comes at a premium, agriculture is only occasionally considered a legitimate form of land use in the large cities of West Africa. Local planning policies, which, inspired by Western urban models, have long separated and distinguished urban activities from those considered exclusively rural, among them farming (Laure Le Gall 2014). 

In Burkina Faso, urban agriculture is not explicitly taken into account in Agricultural Development Plans. However, acceptance for urban agriculture can be found in the revised Master Plan from 2008 (Schéma Directeur) for Greater Ouagadougou, which recommended the allocation of wetlands for market gardening and the creation of a green belt to the south of the city. 

Another example is the provision of land to market gardeners from inside the city to the suburbs of a market-gardening site of Kossodo in Nongremasson, one of the five arrondissements (boroughs) of northern Ouagadougou (see map). Here, the local authority and the ONEA (Office National de l’Eau et de l’Assainissement – National Office for Water and Sanitation) have started an effort to hand out land to existing and new cultivators. However, in 2011 this project was experiencing challenges. For example, according to surveys, this site has resulted in lowered incomes, partly from salt irrigation water (which could potentially be fixed) but also from the plot sizes allocated, which do not have the same yield or employment as the original ones. Also, cultivators think the site is located too far away from markets and trading, adding additional costs.

To increase plot sizes, market gardeners practice informal tenure, with informal loaning or renting of plots, without the agreement of the local council, which enables them to extend their total amount of cultivable land. Using the official channels they could only hope to receive a single plot. This perhaps does not pose major issues to sustainability, but it has also not stopped the informal occupation of new lands, which was one of the main aims of the project (Source: Laure Le Gall 2014). 

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