Green Works Based on Labour-Intensive Local Technologies in Burkina Faso

Using the green works approach, this project aims to demonstrate, document, and analyse traditional soil restoration techniques and to gather the data necessary for policies and programmes at a larger and more systematic scale.

In May 2022, the ILO’s Employment Intensive Investment Programme (EIIP) initiated a project in Burkina Faso to demonstrate, document, and analyse traditional soil restoration techniques to capture the necessary data on costs, inputs and labour productivity needed for formulation, planning and implementation of policies and programme at a larger and more systematic scale.
Traditional restoration techniques used in the project included the demi-lune (half-moon), zai (soil pits), diguette en pierres (stone dike), diguette en terre (earthen dike) and digue filtrante (filter dike), all of which can help retain nutrients and rainfall, thus restoring the degraded land. The use of these techniques generated jobs opportunities for women, young people and IDPs, thus demonstrating the capacity of such initiatives to contribute to the promotion of the decent work agenda. The project aimed to draw lessons from the application to enable a wider dissemination and adoption of these techniques.

Demi-lunes (half-moons) in Songodin, Burkina Faso.© ILO-Filinfo, 2022


The Sahel is faced with increasing desertification and land degradation, due to erosion and anthropogenic pressure. Addressing this requires a multitude of strategies and approaches, one of which is the wider use of indigenous restoration techniques as part of the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative. As an African-led initiative to restore the continent’s degraded landscapes and combat desertification, the GGW initiative is being implemented across 22 African countries and will revitalize thousands of communities across the continent.
These traditional techniques are well-known in the northern regions of Burkina Faso and the Sahel in general. But as desertification moves southward, these techniques are also becoming relevant in southern Burkina Faso, where they are less commonly applied. Furthermore, due to conflict, poverty, and intense use of the land and migration, local populations are not able to apply these techniques at the scale required for the GGW initiative. To support the wider use of these techniques as part of the GGW initiative, the EIIP implemented a pilot project in the Centre-Nord Region and the Northern Region of Burkina Faso, as part of a regional joint program initiated by the United Nations System in the Sahel. Both Regions faced similar environmental and socio-economic challenges, including exacerbated land degradation, decline in soil fertility, large influxes of internally displaced people (IDPs), and youth unemployment.
The project is in line with the green works approach, which is promoted and implemented by the ILO’s EIIP. Green works refer to the employment-intensive development, restoration and maintenance of public infrastructure, community assets, natural areas and landscapes to contribute to environmental goals. Based on labour-intensive local restoration technologies, the Burkina Faso project would support the region’s environmental rehabilitation.


By creating local jobs through the application of local technologies to combat desertification in the Sahel, the project can support the GGW initiative and broader regional initiatives to combat desertification. Specifically, by demonstrating, documenting and analysing the implementation of these traditional restoration techniques, the project aims to draw lessons and to enable a wider application of these techniques in global initiatives.
On a local level, the project aimed to:
  • Create employment opportunities for women, youth and IDPs.
  • Restore 42 ha of degraded land using local techniques and increase arable areas in three localities.
  • Stabilize the development and social cohesion processes for/by communities living in the Sahel.
Women creating a diguette en terre (earth dike) in Sambtenga, Burkina Faso. ©ILO-Filinfo, 2022

Activities and Achievements:

The project planned to use traditional techniques to restore 42 hectares of degraded land in Burkina Faso, as a demonstration for more widespread use of these techniques and their benefits. Measures have also been put in place to improve the working conditions, including personal protective equipment (PPE), small-scale equipment, boreholes at each site to provide drinking water, and ventilated latrines for sanitation, a system for listening and reporting grievances as well as a local committee for monitoring and managing maintenance works.
Human-powered pump for drinking water in Songodin, Burkina Faso. ©ILO-Filinfo, 2022
On the sites, previously barren land has been successfully restored and is once again available for agriculture activities. Project activities resulted to the construction of: (a) 1,580 demi-lunes ; (b) 215,910 zai; (c) 1500 trees planted; (d) three digues filtrantes of 24m; (e) three diguettes en pierres of 200m and, (f) four diguettes en terre of125m. Through the implementation of these green works, the project has created job opportunities for 300 people, most of whom are women (70%), youth or IDPs (21%).
The already visible improvements are also supportive of the aim to improve land productivity by about 0.4t/ha (from the current 0.6t/ha to 0.9 or 1t/ha) for crops such as white sorghum and little millet.
Beyond the project sites, villagers began to apply the techniques learned or optimized in their family plantations to increase yields. “See for yourselves, the result is visible through our millet fields,” said Mrs Noélie Ouedraogo, a local worker. “We worked on this site and also replicated in our own fields.”
Moreover, the technical elements, costs, inputs, and employment effects of the restoration techniques were documented and analysed. Thus, the trends in terms of hours of work generated per hectare of restored soil and according to the techniques used, have also been archived. All this data will benefit the techniques’ future application at a larger scale.
Cultivation of sorghum on the half-moons carried out on formerly barren land in Songodin, Burkina Faso. Frédéric Bandon Mboyong