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Burkina Faso's eco-friendly golf course

Salif Samaké, president of Ouagadougou's Golf Club, plays golf, in Ouagadougou on February 21, 2023.   -  
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Burkina Faso

You must have heard of the greens when talking about golf, welcome to the brown.

Burkina Faso's sole golf course is a pioneer in bringing sustainability to a water-consuming sports.

Founded in 1975, it boasts an 18-hole and two nine-hole courses -- all certified by the French golf federation.

Villagers whose land was taken over by the club found jobs tending the courses, then became caddies and, quite often, turned into exceptional golfers in their own right, the director of sports, Abdou Tapsoba said.

It was Salif Samaké's father who introduced the sports to the capital after taking it up while in the French army.

"Unlike the "green", with grass everywhere,we have sand mixed with motor oil here," he explains. 

"Burkina is a country where we need water. Water is very expensive so we can’t afford to drill in here and cultivate a green while the population needs water to drink, so we can’t afford to come in here and water and say we’re going to play golf."

To water a top-class 18-hole golf course takes an average of 5,000 cubic metres (1.3 million US gallons) per day -- equivalent to the daily consumption of a town of 12,000 people.

Sprinkler needs are particularly acute in desert settings.

There is the obvious loss from evaporation, but also the sustainability of the water itself -- it may have been drawn from aquifers, rather than rivers, which can take hundreds of years to recharge.

Unexpected things

Burkina Faso already suffers heavy water constraints and researchers fear drought and de'sertifi'cation will worsen in the future.

The Ouaga's fairways comprise earth, stones and sinewy shrubs that provide a rather crumbly surface which adds a twist to the game.

"Unexpected things often happen here", golf beginner Nathanaël Congo, says smiling.

"You can hit your ball and then it hits a rock, it changes the trajectory of the ball but it’s also part of the game. This is also what makes the Ouagadougou route a bit atypical."

The golf course president hopes this model can be exported to other countries.

For now, golf remains accessible to a selected few in the Sahelian nation.

Membership fees alone cost some $400 annually, but a hefty tag in Burkina Faso.

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