Many regional divisions of Burkina Faso were made by the technical services of ministerial departments (MARA, MEE, MAT...) following precise specific objectives. The agricultural zones described here are those determined by INERA.
2.6.1 the nothern region: the sahel
It covers the majority of the Burkinabè Sahel and includes the Sahel provinces of Oudalan and Soum. It is the driest region of the country. The rainy season, which lasts approximately three months extends from June to September. Rains are erratic and the total rainfall in a year is hardly more than 600 mm. Evapotranspiration there is very high and is combined with high amplitudes of temperatures during the day and at night.
By tradition, it is a livestock zone. Millet is the main crop, while white sorghum comes second. There are almost no rotation crops. Fallowing decisions are dependent on the displacement of animal habitat or penning (KAFANDO P., 1995). Night penning of animals on plots after harvests constitutes the main form of soil fertilisation. The inputs of chemical fertiliser are negligible. Animal traction, which has been introduced by vulgarisation agents, is not yet generalised. However, in the Soum there are a few hitches with donkeys and camels. Usually agricultural work is manual in this region where the margin of manoeuvre of producers is narrow as far as the choice of cropping and production system is concerned.
2.6.2 the central region
It covers the following provinces: Sanmatenga, Namentenga, Oubritenga, Boulkiemdé, Sanguié, Kadiogo, Ganzourgou, Bazèga, Zoundwégo, Sissili and Nahouri. It extends to almost all the central plateau, with an annual rainfall ranging from 600 mm in the north to 900 mm in the south. Unequally distributed, rains spread over 4 to 6 months. Agriculture in this region is mainly rain fed.
Due to its high population density, this region experiences serious problems of environmental degradation resulting from the overexploitation of its meagre resources. The population pressure in the centre is such that there is practically almost no fallow anymore. Therefore, soil fertility is not restored, accelerating in this way its degradation and aggravating the adverse effects of wind and hydric erosion. The inputs of fertilisers to make up for and restore crop exploitations are weak. This system of land use gradually leads to soil depletion, hence the notion of land overexploitation
Farming systems in the regions are based on cereals like in the east. Sorghum and millet come first, i.e. about 80 % acreage, followed by groundnuts and quite far behind maize.
The introduction of animal traction dates back from the 1960’s. In general, the use of traction equipment is limited to ploughing before planting, particularly for cash crops (groundnuts and cotton). It cannot be said that animal traction is a characteristic of this region as most farming activities are still done manually. Local varieties of sorghum and millet are still preponderant. Recourse to improved seeds concerns only groundnut and rice.
As a result of the many water bodies in the central regions, market gardening is developing. Since it is an out of season activity, producers have the opportunity to get to work and increase their incomes.
It includes the provinces of Bam, Passoré, Yatenga and Sourou. This region is characterised by a rainfall, which varies between 600 mm in the north to 800 mm in the south. The dominant economic activity is livestock raising, with, however, animal numbers less than those of the Sahel and the central regions. But the degradation of the climatic conditions obliged producers to adapt themselves. In this sense farming systems in this region are now based on the couple millet-sorghum (white). Groundnut comes in third position. Pedo-climatic conditions offer producers of this region little choice in terms of crop diversification. Croplands are lacking and they are continuously used under rotations: millet-sorghum-groundnut However, it can be noticed that farmers are making efforts to overcome this hostility of nature. It is one of the regions, where the use of organic manure (animal manure and excreta), in association with the use of straw, is quite common. In provinces such Yatenga and Passoré, the Zaï (improved traditional technique) is used to restore deteriorated land. Although the introduction of animal traction goes as far as the beginning of independence (BDPA and SATEC intervention), this practice is also constrained for many reasons : soil fragility, high costs, maintenance of draught animals. As a result, farming activities still remain manual. In the north-western region, it is worth noticing the existence of the Sourou valley, which provides great opportunities for the cultivation of irrigated rice, maize and market gardening. With irrigation, producers undertake two campaigns of rice and earn substantial incomes. It must be noticed that in the irrigated areas, agricultural intensification techniques are used.
2.6.4 the eastern region
It covers the provinces of Boulgou, Kouritenga, Gourma, Gnagna and Tapoa. Some
provinces (Gourma, and Tapoa) in this region are the least populated and thus the
least deteriorated in Burkina Faso. The annual rainfall varies between 600 mm and
900 mm. It shelters the country’s big fauna reserves. It is considered as a cereal
producing region. Farming systems there are characterised by the predominance of
sorghum and millet in rotations. Groundnut comes next. In recent years, the
penetration of cash crops such as cotton has been noticed thanks to political
2.6.5 the western region
It covers the provinces of Kossi, Mouhoun, Houet, Kénédougou, Bougouriba, Comoé and Poni.
The rainfall is in the range of 900 mm and 1100 mm. It constitutes the region with the best agricultural potential. Maize is the main food crop. The growing of rain-fed rice is also developed. It is the chosen zone for the main industrial and cash crops (sugar cane and cotton).
The western region is also that of yams. Mainly cultivated in the Comoé and Poni provinces, the position of yam is relatively important in the farming system. Its cultivation demands rich soils, hence the need to clear new plots as fields become poor. It is a destruction factor of biological diversity.
The western region, no matter what is said, is the region where the modernisation of agriculture is fast (use of improved seeds and grain drills, mechanical ploughing and weeding, treatment with insecticides). In addition to the large adoption of animal traction, favoured by the cultivation of cotton, an experiment of mechanisation occurred thanks to the financial facilities provided by cotton cultivation. This intensification of agriculture is limited in the short term by the fragility of soils whose fertility conservation is not guaranteed. The low rate of organic matter in the soil and the need to restore soil depletion constitutes challenges for most producers in the region despite their satisfactory technical level.
In this region, fallowing is a practice still in force, because of the relative availability of lands. But the land pressure, which is growing with the flow of migrants, tends to make it disappear.