Popular and official representations of the environment in Burkina Faso present soils as fragile and potentially subject to catastrophic collapse in fertility. In the cotton growing zone of southwestern Burkina Faso, researchers and policy makers attribute changes in land cover and land quality to population growth. This paper presents evidence questioning the dominant "population-degradation narrative" as applied to Burkina. We find that farmers are intensifying their production systems. While population has led to land scarcity, farmers are responding to both the resulting uncertainty in land rights and reductions in soil quality by intensifying the production process. Investments are used both as a soil-building and a tenure-building strategy.
Kevane, Michael and Gray, Leslie, Evolving Tenure Rights and Agricultural Intensification in Southwestern Burkina Faso. World Development, Vol. 29, No. 4, 2001. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1096251