With Eugénie, we are back in Burkina Faso since mid December for a long stay of 10 weeks. This will be our longest stay here.
Besides the fact of getting away from the European winter, it will give us more time to work on some projects which we would like to start in 2011.
End of November we have loaded a 40’ container which was supposed to be shipped to Bobo Dioulasso viaAbidjan. You probably have heard of the difficultiesIvory Coasthas at this moment. We have decided to ship the container via Lomé, capital ofTogo. It costs more, takes longer, but looks safer than to go via a country where a civil war can start at any time. Sad when you know what the country could offer to its habitants.
We spent 2 days inOuagadougoubefore driving to Bobo. We did our traditional visit to the Dutch Embassy where we regularly inform them of our activities and findings. We also visited the Dutch organization SNV with whom we are developing a project for the Karité butter (Shea butter). We also visited the bronze artists and placed some orders with them. Lilian was supposed to join us but was stuck in The Netherlands because of the weather. Luckily she has been able to join us in Bobo 3 days later.
We arrived in Bobo Saturday afternoon and since then we have been getting use to our house again. It has been 10 months for Eugénie and 4 months for me since our last visit. It is still a very comfortable place to live in.
Some good news first, all Burkinabé under 29 years old have been vaccinated against meningitis. This will save the life of thousands of children. We have also learned that mosquito nets have been distributed to the area where we are active. However, not everybody has one yet and we will still have to buy some nets to make it complete.
On December 11th it was the celebration of the 50th anniversary ofBurkina Faso independence. It was held in Bobo and everything went smoothly. A lot of road works, new monuments were done for this occasion. It really looks cosmetic since only what the official visited was ready. The roads inside the center of Bobo are still a disaster. In order to show a good image, people were paid to clean the city. Habitants of Bobo were very proud. As somebody said, will they keep the town clean by themselves? Any way for a short period of time the Bobolais are proud of themselves. Since everything went smoothly, they think that their president is also pleased with them and that there will be more done in Bobo because of this. For your information, Blaise Compoaré was elected again president of Burkina with 80% of the votes, but with a very low participation.
During a discussion with a Senegalese who is helping us in our project of secondary school, he mentioned that their President Mr. Wad had come to Bobo for the celebration. He met up with the Senegalese residents inBurkina Faso. They had prepared a short presentation of their organization and their work to help their fellow citizen here. The President came, did not let them say anything, instead he opened a suitcase taking out a huge pile of cash and distributed it in saying so much for children, so much for women, so much for social activities. An amount of 14.000.000 CFA (€22.000), just given like that. Finally, most of the members of the association decided to share the funds between them and forgot the good intention they had before to help others.
We started the week by a visit to thevillageofSissa. We had stopped our activities in this village in September and wanted to get some information on the village, especially regarding the primary school. One of the projects we had stopped was the lunch program. In this village there are at least 60 new children starting school each year (we had up to 80). This year there are only 30!!! The new school director attributed this lack of interest to the missing lunch. Children who have to walk a few kilometers to come to school are not really motivated to make the effort and the parents do not have arguments to send them. In addition, at least 20 other children from other levels have not showed up this year. The school has lost 64 children in total this year. We knew that the lunch program was important, but I did not expect it had such an impact. Another part of the situation is the lack of success of the children at the end of the primary school and in the rural secondary schools. If you are parents, why send your children to school if they come back to you and do not want to help you anymore in the farming work? I understand them.
We had sent a letter to the Minister of primary education to explain this negative spiral for education. We did receive an answer thanking us for our work, but telling us that we do not know the real situation in rural areas and that almost everything is good!!!!!!!!
Villagers from Sissa
We will support some programs to help teachers improve their teaching skills and to motivate them to do a better job. We are also finalizing a project to build a Private Agricultural Secondary School (PASS).
Tuesday and Wednesday we had meetings in Bobo with 10 representatives from each village to explain our new approach: we will not work with a village unless it shows a proper organization with transparent leaders, good maintenance of all the infrastructure of the village and respect for contracts (oral or written). This was also the occasion to make a presentation of the PASS project. It is very important to have a strong appropriation of the project by the villagers. They will have to come and tell us what they will be able to contribute to its realization.
Our meeting room in Bobo with 42 and 56 people
Karim (ASAP) Joseph and Felix (consultants) explaining the PASS
We had time to take Lilian to the villageof Bonato give her an idea of what a village looks like and to have a look at some of the realizations done in Bona. This year we completed the primary school and we have built a “Maison de la Femme”.
A classroom in Bona Women making a list in front of their h
On the 23rd, all the scholarship holders attending secondary boarding schools came back to Bobo. They are 48 in total and to take them back to their villages, Désiré has organized the local “bus” to pick them up at our office. It was nice to meet them and we are very pleased with their results. Only one boy and one girl have some difficulties and we are sure that they have the capacities to overcome them. In addition Gabin, one of the boys has won a drawing competition with as theme: the 50th anniversary of independence. His price was a bicycle, a school bag with supplies and 20.000 CFA ( € 30). The same Gabin is also 3rd for the whole of Burkina in 100 meters dash for his category.
Local transport for the children taking them back to their village
Gabin with his new back pack
On December 24th, we left for the town ofSégou inMali with Lilian and Abdoulaye Gandema (bronze artist from Ouaga). We thought it would take us about 5 hours, but between check points at the borders, bad roads; it took us 7 and ½ hours. Ségou is a small town on theNiger River. A lot of the economy depends on it: fishing, transport…We had a couple of very restful days. The highlight of the trip for me was the visit of a shop manufacturing Bogolan (natural dying technique of cotton cloth) and the trip on theNiger in a pirogue.Mali is very much likeBurkina Faso. People are very friendly, they are slightly better off than the people in Burkina.Mali has more history than Burkina.
Lilian making a bogolan
Abdoulaye trying to see where is the fish
Sunset on the Niger
Baking potteries in a nearby village
Last week of the year we squeezed in a meeting with INERA (local agricultural research center), interviews of candidates for the job of director of the PASS, the measuring of the land given to us by a village for the PASS and to take Lilian to see hippopotamus in a nearby lake, passing by two villages where we are active on the way back.
Children in Sokourani happy to see Lilian
Birds above Hippopotamus
This will be all for this time. Hope you are all well.
Until next week with fresh news,