Monday Eugénie arrived in Ouagadougou from Europe. Désiré had to deliver 100kg of Shea butter in Ouagadougou to be sent to Canada also on Monday. So Tuesday Eugénie, Désiré, the wife of Emmanuel and their son came down to Bobo Dioulasso. On The first part of the tripl (until Boromo) the road is very bad with huge holes, the second part is rather good, it is a journey of 380 km.
This week we visited 3 villages Bona, Sissa and Toungana and we also paid a visit to the members of Opurkina (a cooperative for cereal) in Sokourani.
The village of Sissa is populated mostly by Mossi ( same as Nefrelaye of which I talked to you last week). Same ethnical group, but a huge difference in attitude. There should be at least 80 children in the first class of primary school when there are only 30 so far!!! Many excuses are given for this situation: one father will have may be up to 8 children in school and he cannot pay for all of them, ignorance of the parents…. Actually the main problem is that if children finish primary school, in order for them to go to secondary school they have to be sent out of the village which is very costly (travel, food..). So the father makes a choice between his children and sends only a few to primary school. It is rather logical: why should you send your child to primary school if you know that he will not be able to continue studying? Because of difficulties with the men of the village we had stopped to deliver supply for the lunch program at school last year. This is another major factor of small school attendance. They realise that it is better to send your kids to school when there is food . In Nefrelaye they have another mentality: even primary school is better than no school.
The problem we had with Sissa was linked with loans. The names we had for the loan application was not correct. A leader of a family had put his brothers on the list to get fertilizer without them knowing . He then sold the fertilizer to cancel another debt. For a loan for oxen, it was also all mixed up. The loan is for 2 oxen, and 3 different tools to work the land. They manage to distribute the tools to different people and may be to sell the oxen, we are not sure. In Nefrelaye the leaders take responsibility and work with the villagers to solve difficult situation. In Sissa the leaders are the people who create the trouble.
I guess the attitude of the director is also affected by the village attitude. He did not come to our meeting since he was not directly invited by us, but only by the village!!! In primary school with 6 classes there should be 6 teachers plus the director. In many schools they are short of one teacher. Even so it is not his role many directors take the class that has no teacher. In Sissa the director refuses and leaves the class empty!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Very frustrating.
The village of Bona has changed in the last two years. Our work (we think) and the work of the director (a very good one this time) has managed to create an atmosphere of trust between the leaders. It is a pleasure to visit them and talk to them. Unfortunately their mood was not very positive this year with a very poor rainy season. A lot of the villages we visited in the past 2 weeks will have problem with food starting in April next year. Also traditional wells which people still rely on for a large part of the year are going to be dry very early.
Bona has been asking us for 3 years to help build a medical centre in their village. So far no luck in finding the funds for this project. They have also asked us for a nursery school.
The last village we visited this week is Toungana. It is also the smallest of the village where we are active (about 500 people). This year we have built a bridge to enable the farmers to reach their fields on the other side of what is called a “marigot” (lots of water during the rainy season which is also when you need to be in the fields and dry for at least 7 months of the year). They had asked us for the bridge for over 4 years. It is incredible the impact of this realisation has on the life of the villagers. They have now free access to their fields when they want and whatever the rains. The bridge is also used by neighbouring villages. They keep on saying that “we have saved their lives”.
This year we are also increasing the size of their primary school. This should help for a better quality of teaching (as long as there are teachers). What we have found in this visit is a rather organised village, with truthful leaders and strong group of young adults.
One of the delegate of Burkinakarité (making of Shea butter) had to make a restitution of the meeting we had in Bobo 10 days ago. It was her first time to talk in front of a lot of people. She was shaking and trembling. We had to ask her to sit down. She did a very good job and everybody was impressed by her. Younger woman do not address a crowd, even less when there are men.
On Tuesday we went to Sokourani to discuss with Opurkina members (cooperative for cereals production). The reason of the meeting is more to discuss the end of this cooperative. Even after a lot of work with the members, only a small group of 4 or 5 understood the concept of the cooperative. The others thought that it was only a place where you can get fertilizer, and for the good ones just to pay back what you take, but for many not to bother to pay back. The only asset of the cooperative is a silo which they will have no use for. We are looking if the social business (SYS) can buy it from them. This will enable the cooperative to repay part of the loans they had subscribed. It is a failure for me since I did not realise when we helped to start Opurkina the difficulty for farmers to work together. Hopefully we have learned something and the agricultural social business we are starting will be working with individual farmers only linked together at the level of the social business.
When we are in the car going to the villages there are all sorts of discussions going on. On one of the trip, we were discussing about the size of some of the secondary schools in town. Désiré said that there was 14 classes at each level at his lyceum. Emmanuel was in a school with 24 classes per level. When you know that there is at least 70 students per class, this means that there was 1680 students per level!!! I guess you have to be really motivated to succeed and not to be lost in such environment. At 10 in the morning is the first break and children are normally buying something to eat from the street vendors. Here also you really had to fight your way in order to get something.
Another trip they were talking about small jobs they were doing when young. They both were selling petroleum for lamps. Désiré was getting the small bottles of petroleum from a trader nearby his house. He had to hurry to sell his quota because the payment for his work was the possibility to use the bike of the trader down the street and back. If was late, other kids were already on the bike or waiting for their turn. When darkness arrived, no more bike!!!! For Emmanuel he was first melting some candle wax in the bottle so that less petroleum would be in it. He also said that they were going around the street shouting “petroleum, petroleum” in Moré (his local language). It sounded like the cry of the goat. So everybody was calling them “night goat”. It sounded much more funny in the car!!
Proverb of the week: “Warm water does not forget that it has been cold” (L'eau chaude n'oublie pas q
u'elle a été froide)
Have a good week.