Does Jatropha curcas L. show resistance to drought in the Sahelian zone of West Africa? A case study from Burkina Faso
Abstract. Land degradation is an environmental problem which weakens agro-sylvo-pastoral productivity in sub-Saharan Africa. The most common manifestation of land degradation is the appearance of denuded land. We carried out an experiment to test the effect of three soil and water conservation techniques on survival and growth of Jatropha curcas seedlings transplanted onto two completely denuded lands in the Sahelian and Sudanian zones of Burkina Faso. We implemented an experimental design with three replicates per restoration technique. A total of 174 seedlings were planted in each study site. The results showed that the soil water content varied according to the restoration technique used (df = 2; F = 53.21; p < 0.00) as well as according to study site (df = 1; F = 74.48; p < 0.00). Soil water content was significantly lower in the Sahel than in the Sudanian zone. Seedling survival rate varied significantly according to technique used (df = 2; F = 8.91; p = 0.000) and study site (df = 1; F = 9.74; p = 0.003). Survival rate, diameter and seedling height were highest at the Sudanian site. At the Sahelian site, all seedlings died 2 years after establishment. These results suggest that J. curcas is unsuited to denuded land in the Sahelian zone. Most of the plants died in the Sahel between April and May, which is the peak of the dry season; this may be an indication that J. curcas may not be as drought-resistant as suggested by the prolific literature which has reported on diverse claims surrounding this plant.