As temperatures in Europe are suddenly very low, temperature in Burkina are suddenly increasing. It is here the dry season which goes from October to late May. We are just at the middle and it is the time of the Harmattan wind (dry, dusty wind coming from the Sahara desert).

Our friend Arnaud is getting weaker every day. Eugénie spends most of her time at their house. Yesterday we had the 6 kids at our home and 5 of them spent the night. I am not really used to small children anymore. It is a challenge.

The week started with the visit to our agricultural school in Oualana (LAP) together with 4 French Ladies (Françoise, Ines, Dominique and ….)  who are active in another part of Burkina with their own association. Françoise and Ines are each sponsoring one child of the LAP. It was a bit emotional for both sides (sponsor and kid) to meet. But it was not easy to show some affection. Kids are not used to be hugged or kissed…. We spend the night at the LAP. We have built an house for temporary teachers with 4 bed rooms and only one of them is occupied right now. Being in the dark at 6:30 PM show us one more time the importance of light. Moonlight was very helpful.

During our stay we had the possibility to see the children active in their practical work in the garden. It was time for them to reseed the small plants they had previously grown from seeds: tomatoes, cucumbers, egg plants, cabbages… They had too many of them for the prepared space and they had to extend it. Just to see the enthusiasm of the children and their dedication to draw, trace, dig and water the area gives you goose pimples.

48 of the 70 kids are not living at home but with host families, “tutors”, since the school is very far away from their home. We made an analysis on the quality of the tutors. Not a pretty picture. Some of the tutors have up to 6 kids in their family. This creates promiscuity, difficulty for proper hygiene, bad environment to study (no light). On the food side, they are a lot of variation between tutors, but also there not a satisfactory situation. Unfortunately we do not have control over the tutors. We are now looking at the possibility to start a “foyer” where kids would have to be staying. Cost is the major issue.

SeedlingsSeedlings Area with seedlingsArea with seedlings
Opening a new area for seedling 1Opening a new area for seedling Opening a new area for seedling 2

Kale and Ines, Bakary and FrancoiseKalé and Ines, Bakary and Françoise

In ClassIn Class Preparing a testPreparing a test

Wednesday we went to the village of Kofila. There was some misunderstanding with the women association and the purpose was to understand exactly the difficulty and also to listen to the women's point of view. The situation is relative to Shea butter. Previously, the women association of 5 villages produced Shea butter which is then filtered by ASAP in Bobo Dioulasso, before it is shipped to European customers. The customers wait until the container arrives in their possession before they pay for the butter. This means that the women have to wait 2 to 4 months before getting paid and since we know only at the time of the order the selling price the butter, often the women do not know how much they will get per kilo produced.

With the start of the social business “Musso Ka Yiriwali So” (MKYS = house of development of the women) we could define a certain price and pay them as soon as the Shea butter was collected. This positive aspect (may be not very well communicated) was not seen by many women. In September the price of the Shea nuts was rather high (competition between Dutch, Indian and Danish companies for the food market). Women then speculated and did not produce much butter but kept the nuts expecting the price still to go up.  We had an order of 20.000 kg and we had only 15.000 kg produced. With time the price of nuts went down instead of up. In order to encourage the women to produce the butter, we offered them free soap bars (produced by the social business). The offer was not very smart since it was only for the women who had produced the second time, when the women who had produced the first time were the ones we should have motivated. It worked and they produced more butter, but the women did not accept our offer and they were very unhappy.

She has only 13 kidsShe has only 13 kids!!! The best Shea butter producer of this villageThe best Shea butter producer of this village

View of the women getting ready for the meetingView of the women getting ready for the meeting

After a couple of hours of discussion we got to talk about the soap offer. We asked them what was the best way to handle it: all the women who have produced get some free soap or only the women who have produced the
first time get the free soap. It took them only a few seconds to decide that the best way was that all women should get the free soap. Nice outcome!

On the way back we stopped in Toungana and Kouekouesso to pay the butter collected the week before. It is always nice to see the smile on the women's faces while counting the cash they received for their work.

Désiré counting the cash given to the women for their Shea butter 1Désiré counting the cash given to the women for their Shea butter Désiré counting the cash given to the women for their Shea butter 2

Thursday we had a meeting with a group of 23 teachers in the village of Sokourani. The theme of the meeting was : how to control a class room. In Burkina Faso there is still a lot of corporal punishment. We tried to use the method we learned last week: appreciative inquiry method.

We first asked the participants to think about the best teacher they have had and what were his/her qualities. The qualities mentioned were mainly concentrated on “human” and “hard working”. When we asked them how they control their class, the answers where “with corporal punishment” and  “with good work organisation”. Actually all the teachers in the meeting had received corporal punishment ( at school but also at home) and since they do not know better, it makes sense to them to use corporal punishment to control the class as well. We then had a good lecture by the local teachers advisers on the various type of disciplines. We asked the teachers to make  a list of the difficulties they encountered to control their class and to communicate it to the teachers advisers. We will then analyse with him the tools / training the teachers  need. A large majority of  the teachers in the group are more afraid to be caught using corporal punishment (it is officially against the law!) instead of believing that it is wrong!!! We have still a long way to go…

Attentive teachersAttentive teachers

Friday was kind of a non productive day. We went to the village of Sissa. Some of the  men of this village owe us reimbursement of loans for a rather long time. Even so we send a letter to ask them if we could come and confirmed it with the leaders by phone,  there was only a hand full of people at the meeting place. Both major leaders were gone out of the village??? Thinking about it, it was not surprising since they are themselves owing a large part of the dues. They just make sure that our visit was not publicized!!  We could only acknowledge the people who did decide to come. They confirmed our thinking. Now we will have to get serious and involve the authorities.

The leader of the womenThe leader of the women Kids - sad happyKids (sad? happy?)

To end the week we went today, Sunday, to Banfora (80 km of Bobo Dioulasso) where we have 61 students with scholarships.

19 of them will try to pass an exam called BEPC after 4 years of secondary school. We wanted to know if they knew what they wanted to do after this. In the school where we have the boys they are teaching “electricity” and obviously at least 4 of the boys want to be an electrician. For the girls somebody made a presentation on “accounting career”, 4 of the girls want to be an accountant, we also had them make a medical check at the local hospital and 4 girls like to be medical doctor!!!! In our world kids have too many possibilities, here they have too few.

It is always nice to meet up with these children whom are aware that they have a fantastic opportunity with the scholarship and are trying to make the best of it.

Emmanuel (our new director) in front of the studentsEmmanuel (our new director) in front of the students

FoussitaFoussita Interview with Hortense (who had health problem one year ago)Interview with Hortense (who had health problem one year ago)

Proverb for this week:

“Wisdom is like a baobab tree; no one individual can embrace it”

“La sagesse est comme un baobab ; une personne seule ne peut l'embrasser »

We are almost at the end of this trip, only one week before we get back to the cold Netherlands.

Take care of yourselves.



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