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Effects of Land-Use Practices on Woody Plant Cover Dynamics in Sahelian Agrosystems in Burkina Faso since the 1970s–1980s Droughts

The 1970s–1980s droughts in the Sahel caused a significant degradation of land and plant cover. To cope with this situation, populations have developed several biophysical and social adaptation practices. Many of these are agroforestry practices and contribute to the maintenance of agrosystems. Unfortunately, they remain insufficiently documented and their contributions to the resilience of agrosystems insufficiently evaluated. Many authors widely link the regreening in the Sahel after droughts to the resumption of rainfall. This study examines the contribution of agroforestry practices to the improvement of woody plant cover in the North of Burkina Faso after the 1970s–1980s droughts. The examination of practices is carried out by integrating the rainfall, soil, and geomorphology variables. Landsat images are used to detect changes in woody plant cover: increasing, decreasing, and no-change in the Enhanced Vegetation Index. In addition, 230 field observations, coupled with interviews conducted on the different categories of change, have allowed to characterize the biophysical environment and identify land-use practices. The results show a variability of vegetation index explained to 9% (R2 = 0.09) by rainfall. However, Chi-Squared independence tests show a strong dependence between changes in woody plant cover and geomorphology (p = 0.0018 *), land use, land cover (p = 0.0001 *), and land-use practices (p = 0.0001 *). Our results show that rainfall alone is not enough to explain the dynamics of agrosystems’ woody plant cover. Agricultural and social practices related to the dynamics of farmer perceptions play a key role.