Ecosystem services management: an analysis of stakeholders' perceptions in Thiou, Yatenga Province, Burkina Faso.
A qualitative assessment of stakeholders' preferences and perceptions of ecosystem services was carried out in Thiou, Yatenga province, Burkina Faso. Within the Enhancing the Value of Ecosystem Services in Pastoral Systems (EVESPS) project, the study focused on the current state of ecosystem services, the threats to the sustainable use of such resources, and the best feasible strategies that can be implemented for a better management of ecosystem services, from the perspective of different stakeholders. This was done through focus group discussions with relevant stakeholder groups, including farmers, herders, vegetable growers, traditional miners, and government extension services. The study also looked at the issue from a gender perspective, trying to identify differences in perceptions between men and women. Results from this qualitative assessment showed an increasing awareness of the decline in ecosystem services and the risks associated with certain anthropogenic practices. It also emphasized the importance of water, land and forests in sustaining livelihoods in this community and showed positive attitudes towards conservation of natural resources. However, perceptions and preferences varied among different stakeholder groups. For provisioning services from forests, women put much greater emphasis on non-timber forest products than men. Men tended to rate the provision of forage from pasture areas as the most important ecosystem service provided by rangeland areas; women on the other hand, while recognizing forage as very important, did not assign it the overarching importance that men did. As for preferences related to management options, women prioritized actions to support the provision of water for domestic use, whereas men put more emphasis on water for livestock use and livestock corridors. Respondents in this study, of all stakeholder groups, had a high level of awareness of the importance of management of ecosystems and looked favourably on the implementation of management actions. However, the needs of livelihoods often trump environmental protection even when the awareness is high. Another challenge relates to tenure and the way in which access to land and permission to clear land is granted.