I have left home since almost 2 weeks now. A few days inGhanaand then to Burkina. I was joined in Burkina by Nicola. Nicola is working at ASAP in NL for our communication and fundraising.
Since a few days we found ourselves in a strange situation. In the North of the country, mainly in the capitalOuagadougouthere is real created by the militaries. This in turned exasperated the commercants due to the exactions of the militaries.
What is happening? The president is for over 20 years in power ad has created a class of people around him with a lot of privileges. In the past years this nepotism has grown and it is really visible.
Because of the wars around Burkina (Sierra Leon,Darfur) some militaries (UN peace keepers?) got rich very fast and their leaders even richer in taking out part of the funds coming from the UN. In Ivory Coast a lot of mercenaries where also coming from Burkina and got also rich very fast. All those people got also poor very fast.
With the increase of the food and basic products prices, people realize that the difference between the people in power and themselves is not normal. The militaries are not under control. Since the first ones who went on rampage got what they were asking for, they are all coming out one by one. The rampage of the militaries is not understood by the common people.
Education is a mess and students are also creating trouble. Students who were supposed to start university in October 2010 are still waiting to start!!!!!
Not a very good situation since the president thought that he was above all this and had delegated the running of the country to may be not so competent people: nepotism and competency do not go together.
Anyway it is an unstable situation which we are trying to manage day by day. Nicola will be going back home Tuesday and we are looking at all the options available in case of difficulties inOuagadougoulike going back viaMali(Bamako). For the time being I am staying here until the 29 of this month.
All right lets talk about the reasons why we are in Burkina and of my trip inAccra(Ghana).
InAccra, an international conference was organized on Shea (karité). I was there with a young Burkinabé, Lamine Diallo working with us a project involving shea butter. A lot of people and many countries were represented. A global shea alliance was created with producers, buyers,… All this is sponsored and administrated by US Aid. On my point of view, the alliance is more for the big players to control the market than to help the women who are collecting the shea nuts and making shea butter. We did however learn a lot: 95% of the shea butter is used in the food industry, mainly chocolate. The cosmetic industry takes the rest. There are very few large buyers of butter produced in Africa and most of the shea nuts are exported to be processed in Europe (mainlyDenmark).Brazilis investing inGhanato produce butter which can be used in the food industry (I would never had guess this). A representative of SAP (Software Company) made a presentation on software to help in tracing production (also a surprise). Any way it was not a waste of time.
I was back in Burkina last week end and while waiting for Nicola to arrive, I interviewed candidates who had applied to the position ofSocialbusinessesCentermanager. Nothing conclusive, but some interesting discussion. I also visited 3 high schools in order to prepare the next step of the scholarship holders who will be finishing their first 4 years of high school and will have to change school if they are successful.
Nicola has lived for 2 years inZambiaas a volunteer (VSO) so no surprise with the environment besides the language.
This first week in Bobo was not too busy: a trip to the field where we will build the secondary school, a trip to Bona and one to Sokourani and yesterday we went to Banfora to visit the schools where we have 48 scholarship holders.
The ground for the Lycée Agricole Privé (LAP) we will build is in the villageof Oualana. We went there to locate the place where we will build the infrastructure of the LAP. We have 31 Ha and it is important that we use this ground efficiently. We arrive at the same time than the truck which will drill the water wells. We could only define an approximate zone for the constructions. We will have to go back with a gps to be more effective.
Nicola on the ground from the LAP
On our way back from Oualana, we first stop in Toungana to check on a small bridge we are building there. It looks good and the villagers really helped in the construction.
Bridge in construction in Toungana
We then made a second stop to check on the nursery school we are building in Kwekwesso. Since the beginning of the construction, there was a problem with the participation of the men in the construction. Even worst the women did not bring the water (it is very rare to have this type of situation). Désiré and Jean François had several talk with the leaders to try to understand the problem. In this village there was always problem between the chief and the other elders. The chief is always accused to take everything for him. Some examples. About 3 years ago we helped the women of the various quarters of Kwekwesso to get together. The president of the women association was the wife of the chief and she was not helping to have a cohesive group. She was replaced by another women, I was very pleased. Last week I learned that the new president was another wife of the chief!!! For the nursery school we need young women who can speak French to assist the nursery school teacher. When we ask in February to have a list of candidates, all of them were related to the chief. We had to start our selection all over again due to the protest of the villagers!!! Anyway it looks a bit like a small Burkina in this village.
While we where checking the construction, the chief came asking how were things with us. I started to tell him what I thought of the situation not in a very friendly manner. I also told him that if before the end of the week the men and the women where not back at work, we were going to stop the construction and put a big sign in front of it saying: “here is the site of be the nursery school which the villagers did not want help build”. The next day, the mason did not know what to do with the water brought by the women and the men came also to help. To date it is still going well. We have not yet solved the leadership problem of the village.
Nursery school of Kwekwesso under construction
In Bona the next day, we checked the water well just realized, the hangar of the maison de la femme also just completed. Then Menouhan Gnoumou (director of the LAP), made a presentation to the last of primary school to present the project. None of the children want to be farmers and their parents probably think that farming come in the blood, you do not have to learn it. We need to explain the LAP to both. This trip it
was to the children. Bona was also the first village taking on the project of small gardens. We provide a woman with mesh wire to protect a surface of 3m by 3m. We will then provide the woman with: 2 papayas trees, one baobab, 4 moringa trees, 2 pepper plants. They have to pay 10.000 cfa (15 euro) for this. In Bona 20 women had paid and we were checking that the garden protection had been properly set up before the trees delivery. Everything looked good.
The water well
The trip to Sokourani was to confirm that we were getting 30 Ha to make a farm to produce certified seeds, to discuss with the cooperative Opurkina and to also make a presentation to the school for the LAP. On arrival we were surprised to see a large number of women and men waiting for us. They had understood that it was a regular visit! No problem, we started to discussed about some subject they had on their mind and it was nice for Nicola to see our interaction with villagers.
They confirm the donation of the ground for the farm of the agricultural social business. For Opurkina, they are trying to find way to survive. They have to come back to us with a plan which should show that they have understood the concept of the cooperative and how they will reimburse their loans.
A penny for your thoughts
A penny for your thoughts
Teachers of Sokourani
One of the elder of Sokourani
The visit to Banfora went well. Both school directors (girls and boys) complemented the children for their work. So far the results are very good. This is very encouraging. 1 girl and 1 boy in first year have some difficulties.
Boys in Banfora
Girls in Banfora
When we left in February, we had 3 hens in our yard. They had been given to Eugénie from the family of Hortense (who is doing well). There was also one cock which did not stay long. A bit too loud for us when he was singing at 4 in the morning under our windows. But he had time to come into action. We have now 12 chicks from 2 of the hens.
Chicks and one of the mothers eating left over Papaya at our house