A socioeconomic analysis of the zaï farming practice in northern Burkina Faso

Johannes Schuler*, Anna Voss, Hycenth Tim Ndah, Karim Traore, Jan de Graaff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The zaï farming practice is a local adaptation of conservation agriculture to degraded semiarid areas and consists of restoring heavily crusted soils through small planting pits. This article analyzes the land use change and its impacts through the zaï farming practice in the northern part of Burkina Faso from a socioeconomic perspective, based on data gathered through two surveys in the Ouahigouya region. A survey among 101 farmers concentrated mainly on adoption rates and household characteristics. Later, 16 farmers from the first survey were interviewed with respect to their adoption of the zaï technique for soil restoration. Farm data was collected to cover the farms’ and households’ expenses and revenues for the year 2011. Material and labor input, as well as the obtained yields, were analyzed using the economic farm model OLYMPE. The results reflect the positive economic benefits of zaï cereal production at field and farm level when compared to conventional cultivation, but also point out the constraints to its further expansion. Despite higher input costs mostly related to external labor, the increased yields led to a more than three times higher gross margin per hectare for zaï millet (101,085 FCFA) than the conventional system (23,030 FCFA). Yet, the physically demanding intensive labor requirements during land preparation and implementation of the planting pits (+117 % man days/ha) challenge a broader adoption of the zaï practice. Nonetheless, in a mostly subsistence-oriented farming context the zaï practice proved to reverse severe land degradation and improve households’ livelihood and food security.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)988-1007
JournalAgroecology and Sustainable Food Systems
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Adoption
  • conservation agriculture
  • food security
  • land degradation
  • livelihood


Dive into the research topics of 'A socioeconomic analysis of the zaï farming practice in northern Burkina Faso'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this