I am back in theNetherlandssince this morning. I came viaBamakoinMalisince it is still not quiet inOuagadougou.

The situation was calmer for a few days, and then the police decided to go and shoot in the air as well. They had seen that the militaries got something out of it b doing it this way, so they used the same method. All those actions are committed with impunity, so why not “shoot some free bullets in the air”. There is a new government in place since a week but without politic opening. They have announced some decrease of some personal taxes and the stop of a controversial road tax for cars and motorbikes. Some years ago they stopped the road taxes and they had increased the gasoline price instead.  Now they wanted to put back the road tax without changing the price of the gasoline. Not a very popular decision!

Prices of vegetal oil, sugar and rice have increased between 50 to 200% in the past 3 years. At the same time, salaries have stayed rather flat. In comparison people in power are taking more and more funds via corruption. This doesn’t help people to be happy.

Sofitex is the largest cotton company inBurkina Faso. The price of cotton has been going up a lot on the international market, something that this company did not really foresee. Early 2010 they sold on the future market 500.000 tons of cotton at 800 cfa per kg. This gave them a very nice cash input (some of it was probably used for the presidential election in December 2010). Big problem. They produced only 280.000 tons and the price of the cotton is now 2.000 cfa per kg. They will have to reimburse the difference. Cotton farmers should have got 500 cfa per kg for their production; they got a little bit more than 200 cfa. In addition, the price of the fertilizer provided by Sofitex to the farmers for 2011 campaign has increased by about 20%. The top director explains it by saying that this year he did not ask for subsidies from the government. Farmers might produce less cotton in 2011 than in 2010. This is really mismanagement. When the cotton was at very low price, the production of Burkina was very high. Today the production is low when the price is high. All this is coming from wrong management of Sofitex and the existing corruption within the company. Farmers are the ones exploited in all this mess.

In the villages, people do not really talk about what is happening on the political side. Is it lack of information or do they have other concerns? Probably the second.

Monday was aHolidayin Burkina and this allowed for a bit of rest.

Tuesday we interviewed candidates for a job of executive secretary for our office in Burkina. We were able to make a choice and have now to make her an offer. This will help the staff of ASAP BF a lot.

On Wednesday we went to thevillageofFina. This was the first village we worked with 14 years ago. Since then we had stopped to support the village because of some unscrupulous leaders. We went there without informing them. This gave us a chance to see the village how it really functions. The reason for our trip was that the outstanding loans (7 to 8 years old) were slowly being paid; we wanted to encourage them to keep on doing it. The visit turned out to be both frustrating and positive. The frustration is that projects implemented 12 years ago were not working anymore (grinding mill, water wells) and that in the school there are less children now than at the time we left even though the village has grown a lot in the meantime. The positive side of the visit was that there were some new faces in the meeting we had, who did not hesitate to accuse some other people of the fact that we had “abandoned” the village. This can give us hope for the future. They expressed the fact that the balance of power was still in favor of the people who do not want development. We asked them to think how they could change this situation and to call us back to discuss their findings. For the women we asked them to look at their association and find a way to create a link between the women of the 8 different quarters of the village. So it was sad and … a bit of hope.

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On Thursday we hade a meeting in Toungana with the teachers of 5 primary schools supported by ASAP. We had the same kind of meeting in February for 4 other villages. It was very difficult to make them talk at the beginning. Women teachers will not talk if men teachers are there and more than half were women in the meeting. The meeting was to confront them with the inefficiency of the primary school teaching, to analyze with them the difficulties they have to teach in rural areas and to see how we could motivate them to perform better. The major problem which came out was level of salaries; we did not have this response with the group in February. The political movement in the country is not a stranger to this change. We were able to make some proposition to help solve their difficulties: solar panel for light, additional equipment for teaching, training program to help them teach better. We will also reward the best school of the 5 with a computer course for its teachers during their holidays. We realize that this sort of meeting helped them to relieve some of their frustrations by talking to a third party. We are very pragmatic; this is not the case of the administration.

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Teachers from the meeting

This was our last visit to a village for this time.

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Old tree in Fina

Next trip is planned in July. Talk to you then.

Amitiés,

Hervé

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