In response to threats of chronic water scarcity and episodes of severe drought, since 1950 hundreds of reservoirs were created to provide a dispersed network of water storage facilities throughout Burkina Faso. As fisheries, these reservoirs also became important new sources of food. However, pressures of overfishing, intensive agriculture and sedimentation threaten the services, fish water quality and ecological integrity these reservoirs provide. To establish sustainable management of natural and man-made aquatic systems, Burkina Faso governance requires methods and tools for standardized assessment methods of water and river network health as well as a tool to measure the environmental impacts on riverside society. From November 2011 to 2014 the project SUSFISH implemented first steps to strengthen national capacities to manage fisheries by providing reliable data and information to be used in the formulation of policies and consolidating higher education and research. The success of SUSFISH was the close cooperation between university and ministries in terms of policy formulation and the provision of interdisciplinary national data on biodiversity and ecological water quality for the first time. As a result, SUFISH showed a lack of information sharing between experts, stakeholders in the area of water and fisheries management. Secondly, there is a need for an applied education programme, on several scales - bottom up and top down - for academic and fisheries communities to use scientific knowledge in theory and practice.
The advanced academic partnership SUSFISH plus will respond to two needs: by a) establishing an innovation platform and b) developing an integrated education and research programme. Consequently, we will build on capacity building, development and research on scientific and policy basis to study and contribute to sustainable fisheries, water and river health when society meets ecology in Burkina Faso.
Our project follows a transdisciplinary approach developed in the former SUSFISH project. The project design integrates multiple perspectives (academic, policy and local practice) to develop a comprehensive overview of challenges and solutions. This requires both a multi-disciplinary team skilled in the natural, human and policy sciences and the involvement of fishery policy makers to develop and implement more sustainable strategies suitable to the environmental and political context of Burkina Faso.
There remains a clear need to continue, strengthen, improve or validate some of the promising initial results, such as the validation of the red list of fish species, the bio-monitoring of waters and of the impacts aquatic ecosystems under pressure on society. Our experience in SUSFISH will help to save time in implementing new activities of SUSFISH-plus that are socially, politically and scientifically relevant, such as the contribution to higher education, assessment and improvements in capacity building.