Municipality of Seclin – Municipality of Méguet (Burkina Faso): restoring, protecting and managing natural forests sustainably to adapt to the effects of climate change (January 19, 2016)

The forests adjoining the municipality of Méguet are deteriorating to an increasing degree, due to climate-related disasters (unexpected drought, torrential rain, tornadoes, dry season fires), but also due to human activities (firewood logging, fodder needs, land-use conflicts, strong demographic growth intensifying pressure on natural resources). Faced with this observation, Seclin, a municipality of 12,500 inhabitants in the region of Nord-Pas-de-Calais-Picardie, and Méguet, twinned since 1986, have been jointly committed for several years to a project for the protection and sustainable management of the natural forests of the village of Kakim, in the municipality of Méguet.

With the technical support of the forest administration and the financial help of the municipality, the villagers firstly defined a forest area of 250 hectares that they themselves cordoned off using a firewall system and for which they have created a supervisory committee composed of villagers, in a participative approach. Between 2009 and 2014, this committee permanently evicted nomadic livestock, replanted gaps in the forest with local tree species, built stone barriers and harvested lying deadwood, while the women gathered African locust beans and shea nuts. Lastly, the forest surface was increased to 400 hectares in 2012. Thanks to this programme, there have been no bush fires in the village forest since 2008, whereas previously it had been destroyed every year. The carpet of gramineae is slowly disappearing, leading to the emergence of woody plants. As a result, the forest is becoming naturally resistant to fires and is home to several animal species that had deserted it, especially antelope, warthogs and buffalo.

We met with Pierre Kaboré, former mayor of Méguet and technical coordinator of the solidarity for community development association (ASDC), co-director of the project, during the round table “Local governments commit to climate action” organised on 5 December 2015, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, as part of COP21, in Le Bourget.

What is happening today?

With the support of the French National Federation of Forest Municipalities (FN-COFOR), through COFOR International in supervision of the work and with the municipality of Seclin, the municipality of Méguet therefore wishes to pursue and intensify this process of forest reclamation, by creating two other village forests based on the same model, in the most deteriorated areas of the territory. To this end it created the integrated programme for restoration and protection of natural forests in the municipality of Méguet, under the authority of local elected representatives.

The objective of this initiative is to extend the process of protection and sustainable management of remaining natural forests to two other villages. These forests will be demarcated between the villages and the municipality and will come under a simplified multi-function development plan. This will accommodate the various uses of these areas: protection of the soil, water and climate, production of wood, fodder and other non-woody products.

Image Diaporama - In total, the 16 villages of the municipality (...)

In total, the 16 villages of the municipality could protect and manage 6,400 hectares of forest - Photo : DR

Image Diaporama - Creation and protection of new village (...)

Creation and protection of new village forests in the Méguet area - Photo : DR

Image Diaporama - Replanting of gaps in the forest with local (...)

Replanting of gaps in the forest with local tree species - Photo : DR

Image Diaporama - The population living near forests takes part (...)

The population living near forests takes part in reforestation work - Photo : DR

Image Diaporama - Replanting trees also means taking part in (...)

Replanting trees also means taking part in climate action as the forest is a major carbon sink - Photo : DR

5 December 2015, Pierre Kaboré, former mayor of Méguet, technical coordinator of the solidarity for community development association (ASDC) and co-leader of the project answered our questions directly from COP21, where the project had just been mentioned at the round table “Local governments commit to climate action”.

MAEDI: Could you briefly tell us about the various stages and challenges of the project?

Pierre Kaboré: This project is being developed through several simultaneous actions occurring over approximately one year from April 2015 to April 2016. These include consultation on the demarcation of the geographic area attributed to the forests, determining agricultural activities in the surrounding areas with the support of the economic players involved, drafting a general development plan, and institutional reinforcement of the project.

But beyond climate challenges for the region, forest restoration participates directly in the local development of the territory. This initiative should provide training and employment for young people in rural areas and improve the overall living environment of populations living near forests.

What is the particularity of this decentralised cooperation?

Not only are we protecting forest resources, but we are also enhancing them. Resources from the forests in Karité and Moringa will be harvested and transformed thanks to the creation of cooperatives. Other businesses should participate in forest maintenance and exploitation and will create employment and contribute to improving living standards for the municipality.

Furthermore, this development should improve relations between the traditional chiefs, local elected representatives and officials from the local and regional governments of Burkina Faso through the collective awareness of the preservation of forest areas.

Nevertheless, we must not forget that everything has been done for the local population, because it is in fact the leading player in the development of its territory. I believe it is this particular feature that helped us to obtain the COP21 label.

How has the town of Seclin helped in the development of your action?

It is the close links built since 1986 that have helped to make this initiative a reality. The links that bind both towns go well beyond mere formalised cooperation. When I am in Seclin, I am in Méguet, and vice versa! When I stay in Seclin, I stay with a local host family and sometimes in a town official’s private home…

Would you like to share a last impression, in just a few words?

Since we started working together, lots of locals from Seclin have travelled to Méguet and conversely. We have even seen Franco-Burkinabé marriages after all these years of cooperation and friendship. This is what makes the success of this cooperation: person-to-person dialogue that has become established between the various parties, and in which young people from Méguet and Seclin participate through various cooperation projects.

This project was selected within the framework of the 2015 call for climate projects, launched by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development (MAEDI), in conjunction with the French Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy (MEDDE) and the French Ministry of Agriculture, Agrifood and Forestry (MAAF) as well as the Schneider Electric Foundation, under the aegis of the Fondation de France.

Further information is available under the heading “Action extérieure des collectivités territoriales” (foreign action of the local and regional governments) on the France Diplomatie website. (in french)