About the project

Project Overview

In response to threats of chronic water scarcity and episodes of severe drought, since 1950 hundreds of reservoirs were created to provide a dispersed network of water storage facilities throughout Burkina Faso. As fisheries, these reservoirs also became important new sources of food. However, pressures of overfishing, intensive agriculture and sedimentation threaten the services (fish, water quality) these reservoirs provide. To establish sustainable management of natural and man-made aquatic systems, Burkina Faso requires methods and tools for the standardised assessment of the water quality and ecological status of rivers. The purpose of this project is to strengthen in-country capacities for science, policy and practice to establish the basis for sustainable fisheries in Burkina Faso. This means building scientific capacity to monitor and assess the dynamics of reservoir services (fish, water), the educational capacity to train scientists and technicians in these concepts and methods, and institutional capacities in management and policy formulation, that are linked with research and education in the sphere of water and fisheries in Burkina Faso. The innovations this project will introduce are: most current methods and technology of monitoring fish populations and water quality, the current methodological standard for Europe in statistical modelling that rigorously establishes bio-indicators by linking sets of species (fish and benthic invertebrates) with water quality parameters, the frontier of social science research into the effectiveness of republican and traditional forms of governance and how to harmonize them, current experiments with scenario development to allow managers and planners to explore policy development far into the future, systems analysis of the ecological, economic and social factors that can individually or by interaction create opportunities or barriers to sustainable fisheries management, the latest in educational (lectures, training manual) techniques to sustain the use of the projects innovations in future generations of scientists, policy makers, managers and local practitioners. The results will be used to formulate and implement fish and waters policies, in education (universities and governmental agricultural professional schools) and will have practical relevance for food security and health care.

Objectives and project description

Our project uses a holistic approach to fisheries that integrates multiple perspectives (academic, policy and local practice). This requires both a multi-disciplinary team skilled in the natural, human and policy sciences and the involvement of fishery policy makers to develop and implement more sustainable strategies suitable to the environmental and political context of Burkina Faso. Academic input (researchers/lecturers) should provide the scientific background necessary to formulate policies in natural resources and poverty reduction and strengthen education in universities. Incorporating the inputs of local politicians and fisherman with those of national scale decision-makers and academics will orient academic and policy research along the most practical lines. Major thematic foci of the APPEAR include:

    1. Build capacity to study, monitor and manage sustainable fisheries [overall goal of the project].
    2. Develop water management and assessment methods based on fish that are applicable for use in Burkina Faso
    3. Identify, evaluate, and prepare existing data for fish, environment and pressures for a national database.
    4. Analyze the relationships between pressures (incl. overfishing, land use, continuity) and the dynamics in fish assemblages and in water quality.
    5. Develop ecological awareness by using appropriate case studies to demonstrate the importance of ecological services and biodiversity to the nation’s food security and health care.
    6. Support the implementation and dissemination of project results by (a) integration of the project results in the education policies and on-going national programmes, (b) workshops and international conferences.

Innovative approach

Research and Assessment Methods for Water, Fisheries, and Governance.

The SusFish project will develop a diverse set of methodological and technical resources to assess the integrity and long-term sustainability of water quality and fisheries in Burkina Faso. These include training in the latest equipment and methods of monitoring fish and benthic invertebrates to establish reliable species lists and assessment methods as resources to support the policy process. Monitoring data can be stored as a national database, and changes in the relative abundance or of the species in these lists over time can show how population dynamics indicate if the fishery is sustainable or not and provide data for assessments of risk and vulnerability. One key innovation here is to develop statistical models that link water quality parameters with data on species (both fish and invertebrates) presence such that biological species can indicate water quality and visa versa. The innovation is that clusters of data linking sets of species with sets of water quality parameters can provide much more sensitive tests of the sustainability of fisheries than single variable indicators, e.g. species of fish or chemicals. The SusFish research agenda innovates in integrating bio-physical and social data to achieve a more holistic analysis that incorporates social, cultural, anthropological and economic variables in assessing why fisheries are sustainable or not. In many parts of the country local people have set illegal, exclusive rights of access and management. Rather than assuming that the conven-tional democratic policy process is the only basis for governance, it is innovative to assess why the republican governance policies do not work, why the local/traditional ones do work, how they can be more properly considered by the republican ones, how far local people consider themselves owner of fish and water resources.

Adaptive Management and Social ecology

Policy-relevant science continues to test ways to integrate scientific research with policy making and broaden their knowledge base by incorporating the perspectives of people acting in different sectors and at different levels of society, from local to regional to national. This means expanding the scope of research and policy discussion beyond inter-disciplinarity (social scientists, biologists and nutritionists) to include managers (fisheries planners) and practitioners (fishermen). The SusFish project will sustain such innovative trends in applied research in adaptive management at two levels: monitoring and planning. For monitoring it will do so by inculcating the capacity to assess and manage reservoir fisheries at multiple levels of Burkina society, from local fisheries associations to national universities and ministries. This will be enhanced through the innovation of using sociolinguistics and trans-disciplinary experts to collaborate with local partners to develop a joint strategy not only to communicate the results of the scientific cooperation to the local people but rather to involve them as experts in applying their knowledge, which is linked to language, to enrich the findings of the natural sciences research and make it more accessible and applicable in local fishing communities around Burkina Faso. In the case of planning, Northern project partners will collaborate with Southern partners in the design and running of an experiment in scenario development. The innovation is to help diverse stakeholders, especially policy makers, to explore ideas that are risky because their implications lie so far into the future that prediction becomes impossible. Scenario development exercises will allow stakeholders to explore different pathways to the development of sustainable fisheries over the coming decades. This process will assemble a diversity of academic, government and private stakeholders and resource users to apply forecasting and backcasting techniques (the combination being novel and innovative, see Kok et al. in press) to rigorously identify how to exploit opportunities and circumvent challenges over the next 20 years to successfully establish fisheries science and management in BF. A key innovation will be to use the results of field research in such scenario exercises to explore the potential for harmonizing the two parallel forms of governance: Republican and Traditional, in integrating policy and practice at different scales, from local to regional. In identifying key paths to sustainable fisheries, such exercises allow stakeholders to critically examine and apply what the project learns about.

Academic Programme Development

Applied management techniques are broadly but superficially accessible in literature and from lectures. However, mastering these techniques requires ‘learning-by-doing.’ Staff from the BOKU will train members and staff of Burkina partner organizations in application of the latest techniques of monitoring fish, invertebrates and water quality. They will also collaborate in using the most current lecture and media techniques to design training programmes for use in training future cohorts of fisheries scientists and managers. Staff from IIASA will collaborate with Burkina partner organizations in adapting the latest techniques in scenario development to work within the socio-political context of present day Burkina Faso.


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