West Africa Sentinel Landscape

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The West Africa Sentinel Landscape (WASL) is found within a transect that spans the NE of Mali (Sikasso, Koutiala and Bougouni), Burkina Faso (Bobo Dioulasso, Banfora, Koungoussi and Lake Bam, Ouagadougou,Leo, Fada Ngourma and the W Park), Northern Ghana (Wa, Lawra, Djirapa, Sabuli, Ping, Heng and Tamale, including the Gbele Game Production Reserve), and Northern Togo (Dapaong and mango including the “Fosse aux lions National Park). This transect also includes the Niger Basin (SE Mali) and the Volta Basin (Burkina Faso, Northern Ghana and Northern Togo).

The research will try to generate data on landscape performance over time, to permit identification and interpretation of these thresholds with respect to potential impacts on poverty, food security, human nutrition and sustainable natural resource management.

The main purpose of this analysis is to better understand how humans relate to trees within landscapes, and the corresponding and retro-implications for both humans and tree ecosystems of these relationships.

In order to do this, it is important to obtain knowledge of the landscape units and components, human activities and land use types, the change in processes and their effects, as well as how they can enhance or impede the stated management objectives.

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[tabby title=”Site selection”]

Site Selection

  • Discussion with local and prospective partners from all 4 countries.
  • Drivers of change identified at landscape scale
  • Site selection criteria defined:
    • Gradient of change with old change processes and more recent change processes
    • Potential co-location of CGIAR and other partners
    • Accessibility and security
    • Climatic effect control
    • 2 “sentinel” sites selected per country, representing extremes in landscape change trajectories
  • Burkina Faso and Ghana retained as pilots for baselines due to available resources


  • Situated in the Center North Region and the Bam Province, Kongoussi is 110Km from Ouagadougou.
  • Vast peneplain featuring a few hills and some valleys at an average altitude between 350-400m asl and brown ferrous soils.
  • Soudano-sahelian climate comprising 4 months of rainy season and total precipitation of 600-750mm. Temperatures vary from 17°C in December or January to 44°C in April or May.
  • Tree savannah in the south and steppes in the north make up the vegetation
  • 275,191 inhabitants in 2006 census estimated at 305,859 by 2010 and an urbanization rate of 9.1%.
  • Dispersed households within settlements
  • Presence of church, mosque, primary and secondary schools, as well as a departmental road.
  • Agriculture has traditionally been the main economic activity with cereals (maize, millet and sorghum) cultivated during the rainy season and market gardening on the banks of the Bam Lake during the dry season. Unfortunately the cereal production is no longer sufficient to meet the needs of the local population.
  • Traditional extensive animal rearing is the second most important activity with cows, goats, sheep, chicken and guinea fowl reared.
  • Both artisanal and industrial mining present and increasingly important, but also responsible for much of the migration in the region.


  • 100 Km from Ouagadougou, Cassou is within the Ziro Province, which has 4 departments; Bakata, Bougnounou, Cassou and Gao.
  •  Generally flat relief. South soudanian climate, 800mm to 1,100mm (June to September) of rainfall.
  • Shrub and tree savannah, as well as gallery forests (along the Mohoun and Nazinon rivers).
  • 175,607 inhabitants of this province (2006 population census figures) estimated at 199,934 by 2010 and spread across 128 villages.
  • Four ethnic groups co-habit with native Gourounsi (Nouni) and migrant Mossi, Peulh, and Walla communities.
  • Dispersed households within settlements, presence of church, mosque, primary and secondary schools, as well as both Regional and departmental roads.
  • Agriculture, animal rearing and fuelwood production are the main livelihood activities. Major crops include cotton, read and white sorghum, millet, maize and vegetables. Rearing of chicken, goats and sheep is also common in this area.
  • A key feature of Cassou is the presence of the « Chantier d’Amenagement Forestiere » (CAF) of Cassou and Bougnounou.
  • Water catchments are determinant for livelihood activies


  • Sissala East District (7,115 km2) is one of nine districts in the Upper West Region of north Ghana and within the Kingdom of Dagbon. It shares a 300km border with Burkina to the North and its capital is Tumu.
  • Gently undulating topography between 330 – 365m in the northern to 220m and 290m in the Sissili valley.
  • Guinea savannah vegetation belt with grasses, and scattered fire resistant trees.
  • Population: 60 992 hab (2014), density: 7,2 hab./km2 with high in-migration of Fulani (Peuhls).
  • Ethnic groups include Sissala (80%), Fulani, Dagarti and some Akans. The Sissala are further divided into castes: the hanviarahs, kpeviarahs, buviarahs, yebaviarahs, heliviarahs etc.
  • Highly dispersed settlements at least 10Km apart, but extremely clustered houses sometimes contiguous. Houses are built with mud bricks and roofed with thatch and zinc.
  • Important sources of income among the people are: farming (maize, yam, beans, groundnut, rice, cotton, bambara beans, etc.) , livestock rearing (sheep, goats, pigs, poultry) and trading.
  • Domestic firewood, charcoal, construction and fencing material and fodder amongst available ecosystem services.


  • One of nine districts and municipalities in the Upper East Region of north Ghana, Bawku Municipal District (1,275 km2), has as its capital, the city of Bawku.
  • International boundaries with Burkina Faso (North) and Togo (to the East).
  • Highest point of the Upper East Region. Generally low (120-150 metres asl.) and slightly undulating relief close to White Volta River basin and plateau surfaces elsewhere with mean altitude of 400metres asl.
  • Pronounced dry (late November – early March) and wet seasons (May to October) and average total rainfall of 800m per annum.
  • Drained mainly by the White Volta and its tributaries. Other streams include Kulupielega and the Poanaba Kayinchingo. Seasonal flooding is a landscape feature.
  • Sahel Savannah type vegetation with fire swept grassland separating deciduous trees among which may be seen a few broad-leaved and fire-leached tree species. Forest reserves include Morago West, Kuka and the White Volta basin.
  • Population: 69,527 hab (Kusasis (Kusaal) are th2012), density: 140-170 hab./km2 e indigenous inhabitant population, cohabiting with Mamprusis, Bissas and Mosis but large immigrant populations from other locations in northern and southern Ghana as well as from Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Togo, Niger and Nigeria.
  • Heavily agricultural area with millet, sorghum, maize, tomatoes, soya beans and onions amongst the main crops.

[tabby title=”Village Types”]

Village Types


  • Scattered homesteads, easily accessible
  • Church mosque, primary and secondary schools
  • Departmental road


  • Forested environment
  • Scattered homesteads
  • High in-migration
  • Church, mosque, primary and secondary schools
  • Departmental and Regional roads


  • Forested environment
  • Clustered homesteads
  • High in-migration
  • Church, mosque, primary and secondary schools
  • Departmental and Regional roads

[tabby title=”Baseline”]

Baseline Implementation

  1. Village Survey
    Kongoussi (Burkina Faso)

    • 10 communities
    • 422 participant,
    • 392 forms (stage of Poverty, Settlement form, Forest Form, Product form, Association Form)

    Cassou (Burkina Faso)

    • 18 communities
    • 606 participants,
    • 718 forms (stage of Poverty, Settlement form, Forest Form, Product form, Association Form)

    Walembelle (Ghana)

    • 18 communities
    • 572 participants,
    • 666 forms (stage of Poverty, Settlement form, Forest Form, Product form, Association Form)
  2. Household Survey
    Kongoussi (Burkina Faso)

    • 10 communities
    • 300 households,
    • 300 forms (Sentinel landscape household module)

    Cassou (Burkina Faso)

    • 10 communities
    • 300 households,
    • 300 forms (Sentinel landscape household module)

    Walembelle (Ghana)

    • 10 communities
    • 300 households,
    • 300 forms (Sentinel landscape household module)
  3. LDSF
    Two sites sampled:

    • Kongoussi (Burkina Faso)
    • Cassou (Burkina Faso)

    Two more to be sampled:

    • Walembelle (Ghana)
    • Bawku (Ghana)

    LDSF ground sampling hierarchy

    Level Area (ha) Number
    Sentinel site 10,000 4
    Cluster 100 16 per sentinel site
    Plot 0.1 10 per cluster
    Sub-plot 0.01 4 per plot

    LDSF ground sampling measurements

    Land use history and land cover

    • Composite soil samples
    • Vegetation description
    • Biophysical constraints measurement
    • Erosion prevalence
    • Above-ground biodiversity
    • Woody cover and distribution



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