Enviromental protection – Mihity, classified as an important international wetland is abandoned by the government

Mihity is no doubt the perfect example of the abdication of the Burkinabe public authorities of their responsibility towards the environment. All it took was the audacity of a certain Adama Nana, a farmer, to turn a zone classified as a world heritage into a simple farmland. The case has persisted since 2008 and the public authorities have refused to be up to their responsibilities. The investigation was conducted to find out how an ordinary common law issue has been cleverly turned into an ethnic opposition and left the government in a trap. A close look at how a drama all at once legal, administrative and customary, put the state to a severe test.

Located in the commune of Banh, in the Loroum province, Mihity was classified as a wetland of international importance by the Ramsar Convention in 2009. Together with 14 others, this site constitutes important natural reserves which contribute to the ecosystem balance. According to studies conducted in the zone, the importance of this ecological zone goes beyond the national borders. Mihity is a stop-over site for migratory birds as well as being a reserve for the fauna and flora.

Since 2008, a land dispute has set farmers against herdsmen. It all began when Adama NANA, a farmer, decided to return to the land of his ancestors.  He was driven away by Fulani herdsmen who said they were defending a pastoral zone traditionally meant for their activities. The matter went through the traditional customary processes and reached the public authorities which got stuck with it.

Contradictions within the public service put the regional administration to a severe test. Court rulings became difficult to execute. The matter remained where it was and Nana seized the opportunity to expand his land under cultivation with impunity, despite the fact that the zone was registered among the Ramsar sites in Burkina Faso.

Incidentally, the Adama NANA saga exposed the inertia of the public authorities in Burkina Faso in matters concerning to rural land issue, and their responsibility towards the environment. Above all, it poignantly raises the issue of the erosion of the state’s authority when it comes to giving effect to court rulings. This is because given its importance, the fate of the Banh irrigation cone goes beyond the northern region, to become of national interest.

Originally a simple common law case, Mihity has become a delicate issue where customary and public authorities are entangled without really able to find a way out

By Abdoul Salam OUARMA.

Publisjed April 3, 2003 in Sidwaya.

Read the article in French online or in PDF: Mihity, une forêt « classée » en passe d’être détournée.