On Wednesday of this week, Bertrand from The association A Petits Pas arrived with his wife and another couple. With Caspar and me, the house was full.

The first remark of Bertrand was how nice the house looks since his last trip in May. All the credit to Eugénie who painted the house in November and had convinced me (not always easy) to forget about grass on the side and the back of the house and replace it with some fine gravel.

The first days of the week were spent doing some work with our local team and one trip together with Caspar to Sokourani. You might remember that in October, we had some difficulties with the village of Mogobasso. The men were not up to date with their loan repayment and even after another trip of our local team in November, it did not seem that we had awakened them. We decided to shake them up a little bit and we wrote them a letter saying that we were going to stop all activities in their village unless we would get a clear understanding of the problem they were facing. We brought this letter when going to Sokourani and it had effect, because the next day the village representative came to Bobo to talk to us and gave us the message that everything will be back to normal before the end of the year. We will see!

The village of Sokourani is a little bit special. There is the village with the school and the maison de la femme, but all the fields are twelve kilometers away on the other side of a protected forest in a place called Gongoma. This implies that between May and January, most adults are in their second house in the fields, and only school children and elderly people stay in the village. It often happens that the oldest girl (between ten and thirteen years old) of the family has to come back from school to prepare the food for the younger brothers and sisters. Of course it is not very easy to get good grades in those conditions. The village has tried to exchange the fields with an area of the protected forest closer to the village itself, but without success so far.

We went to Gongoma with Martin the local chief to check on a river which causes a lot of trouble. The river bed has been filled with sand and if the rain comes a bit strong, a lot of the fields are under water and the villagers cannot go back to their village. I am not sure what we can do, but at least we got a better understanding of their situation.

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Farmers picking up Cotton in Gongoma 

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Termites construction on the way to Gongoma
 
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Caspar trying to teach a Dutch song to kids of Sokourani

Bertrand's group arrived on Wednesday night and the next morning we went to Kofila. Bertrand's association A Petits Pas has built a second school in this village. On Thursday there is no school, and we were received three km outside of the village by almost all of the 450 children of these schools. A lot of dust in the air.

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Caspar (again) with some of the children of Kofila

One of the topics we discussed in Kofila was the presentation of some numbers on their village, which we had gathered through a survey made by Mamina (in charge of women projects) two weeks before. She had gone from house to house to gather information about population, mortality, number of bicycles, oxen… A huge job.

We could present the numbers and tell them that the population of the village was 2.373 when they thought they were 1.700. More interesting is that in this village there are around 20 % more boys than girls born in the last 14 years. Also we could tell them 14 children died in 2007 and 13 in 2008 out of respectively 94 and 77 births!!! We checked with the local nurse and it appears that most deaths were caused by malaria in combination with malnutrition. Also parents did not react promptly enough when the children had fever and did not try to use local medicine before taking the child to the medical centre. They had no idea that the situation was so bad. Hopefully they will be more responsive to their children's illness now.

We are doing this survey in all the nine villages we are following up. Four of the surveys have been completed; five still have to be done.

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Red sorgum drying in the sun. It is mainly used to make a local beer called Dolo

We spent Thursday night in Oualana, a neighboring village of Kofila. We opened a nursery school with 51 children here this year, financed by the association of Bertrand. It was actually cold during the night. Some of the other guests did not sleep very well, between my snoring, the cold and the usual noise of the country side (donkey, rooster…).

Last time we were in the village we had to work on the unity of the women's group. This time it was the men's turn. Emile, the president of the parents association, has been appointed at the regional level and since then his head has grown too much. The local inspector for primary school has appointed a new director for the primary school of Oualana. The previous one had good contact with Emile and wanted to stay in Oualana. Emile tried to influence the inspector's decision and started a little war with him. During this time he also was busy with his regional activities and started to drift apart from the other leaders of the village. We could see when we came to the village that things were not right between them and between Emile and the new director. We had a meeting with all of them where they could express their frustration (things they cannot do without a third party) and slowly we could feel that the atmosphere was getting warmer. In these kinds of situations most of the time the main problem is money and this was also the case here: 'Where are the school fees paid by the parents..?' Hopefully they will be able to sort out their problems and get back to working together.

As for the women: they have solved their problems and the grinding mill – which was one of the major issues between them – is working again.

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Mask dance in Oualana 
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Sun rise behind the baobab 
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Children of the nursery school

Saturday we visited Nefrelaye. It seems that we had some communication problem because nobody was waiting for us. Since it is still harvest ti
me, everybody was in the fields. While waiting for some villagers to be gathered, we went to Sissa, another village nearby. We stopped by a group of farmers busy weighing their harvest of cotton and talked a little bit with them. In this village they pay 250cfa (€ 0,38) per day of work (eight to ten hours) in the field to harvest the cotton!! As they say cotton growing is slavery. But they keep on growing cotton.

Back in Nefrelaye we could talk with around 50 villagers (the chiefs were there). We could then announce that Bertrand was going to finance a nursery school for them as they had asked. We left behind very happy people.

Sunday we drove back with Caspar to Ouagadougou stopping at the school of Laba where we have four scholarship holders. They are doing very well. One boy, Eric, has already gone directly from the first to the second year. It looks that he will be able to do the same this year and go to the fourth year of secondary school after only one trimester. He will finish this four year school program in only two years.

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Caspar (again) with the children in Laba

I am back now in The Netherlands (cold!!!).

Thank you for reading.

Amitiés,
Hervé

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