“Climate change”, a phrase that has almost become a media cliché, sounds quite differently where its sad consequences are clear for everyone to see: just south of the great Sahara desert.

Africa is drying up. And Burkina Faso is one of those countries where the Sahara hot breath is felt most.

The annual temperature increase here is 1.5 times faster than the global average, with the dry seasons getting both longer and more severe. The provision of drinking water remains an ongoing challenge with droughts affecting, to varying degrees, up to 80% of agricultural land in turn reducing farming opportunities whilst the population continues to grow. According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, approximately 2.5 million of Burkina Faso’s 20 million population suffer from food shortages as droughts reduce crop yields, which in 2018 resulted in almost half-million-tonnes underproduction of grain.

The areas near Nordgold’s mines in Burkina Faso are no exception, with local communities facing the same problems.

Saïdu Kanazoé, a farmer from Nakambogo, said he was “expecting a good harvest as the stalks were already here, above knee height, but then it stopped raining.” Consequently, “almost everything dried out very quickly.”

Meanwhile, Colince Tagny, Manager of Sustainable Development at Nordgold, has highlighted that “both Nordgold’s Bissa-Bouly and Taparko mines are located in the central and northern parts of Burkina Faso, in areas severely affected by droughts. Therefore, Nordgold cannot just stand aside and do nothing.”

©Arnand Van Heerden

Utilising Nordgold’s expertise as a natural resource company to find groundwater and make it available for local communities sounded like a good start. The company engineers and geologists helped locate underground water sources and reservoirs, which has helped reduce the dependence of local farmers on surface water sources affected by droughts. Additionally, dozens of boreholes and wells (pictured) have already been drilled in the villages near Nordgold’s mines, providing access to water even on the driest days. Importantly, the mines’ teams regularly survey the water to ensure its quality.


However, over here the long-awaited rain may not necessarily arrive as a blessing. Because it can easily turn into a real tropical downpour. During the rainy season, farming stops and food prices can rise up to 40% compared to the dry season. While this is not an issue for those who can afford to stockpile during the low-price period, the most vulnerable groups suffer disproportionately from the volatility.

©Arnand Van Heerden

Saïdu Kanazoé says: “It is very tough for some families. For the adults it is easier, but children need regular nutrition which is not guaranteed.”

Bissa-Bouly proposed a solution - a food bank. Colince Tagny explains: “We purchase food for villages located near Bissa-Bouly. We then use these purchases to establish a grain bank that gives people a chance to replenish their stock affordably as and when required. The bank offers protection against seasonal price spikes and ensures a fair distribution of grain consistent with the needs of the residents of affected villages.”

Residents of the Yeou village located near the Taparko mine have gone even further. Local women reasoned that changing climate not only required water but also new ways of thinking. Consequently, in addition to a water tower and deep water well a school for adults has been built in Yeou where local women can learn new efficient farming methods. Some serious partners united to support the initiative: Nordgold, the Association of Female Miners of Burkina Faso (AFEMIB) and the Embassy of France.

“We always try to join forces with those who have experience and the resources that we otherwise would not have,” says Colince Tagny, adding that: “Our partners range from large international bodies to local organisations with a great understanding of the local environment. We had this exact mix of partners in the Yeou project, which I believe was key to its success.”

Moreover, every year Nordgold plants thousands of trees not just to help tackle climate change but also to create opportunities for local communities to generate additional income in a sustainable way. In 2019 alone, the company planted over 20 000 trees, including Papaya, Lemon, Guavas and Mango trees, around its mines in Burkina Faso. Initially they are cared for in plant nurseries at the mines, before then being distributed to local villages for further cultivation.

Yet the largest water project to date by Nordgold in Burkina Faso has been the Tiben dam near Bissa-Bouly. Initially this 2,850 hectare, 101 million cubic meter freshwater reservoir was built for the company’s own operational needs. However, these needs also aligned with those of the local residents for a stable water supply throughout the year. More than one hundred of the local youth participated in training courses arranged by Nordgold and received farming equipment purchased by us. As a result, the dam is now surrounded by farms. Further to this, the producers don’t need to worry about reaching a minimum level of sales as the mine purchases tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of their produce every year.


“70% of vegetables purchased by Bissa-Bouly for employee meals are sourced from local farmers,” says Colince Tagny. “It is a great business for them, and we are very happy to support our local community.”

The problem of climate change in West Africa is far from being resolved. It will take a very substantial and lasting effort on a global scale. However, people who live here need to address their challenges now, and we at Nordgold strive to help find these solutions through our programmes, guided by UN Sustainability Goals, that work well for everyone.

©Arnand Van Heerden