So the LAP (agricultural secondary school) is officially opened. It means that the lectures have started. No bands or cutting of ribbon, no speeches, only children with teachers and a few of us to see it happening. Low key.
We have also the official authorisation of opening the school. Very often private school will take 2, 3 years to get this document.
The children had started to come since a few days to get accounted to their new neighbourhood. The director mentioned that after 10 AM and before the lunch given at the school, it was very difficult to get the children attention. On Monday he asked how many had any kind of breakfast. Only one had something to eat before to come to school.
Out of the 70 children, 51 are staying with a tutors since their home is too far from the school. Some tutors have up to 6 kids. We have also found out that the children bring their own food from home and that they have to cook it in the evening. In the morning they do not have time to warm up left over if any.
We have decided to provide them with a piece of bread with blue band each morning at the recess at 10 AM. This morning was the first distribution. This is our first adjustment. I am sure there will be many others.
The bread is coming to the villages around the LAP every 2 days. The young man buys 450 breads in Bobo Dioulasso. He stacks them up on the back of his bike. He rides 55 km to the villages, sell the bread for a margin of 25 cfa per bread and come back to town. Taking into account what he eats along the way, he makes a profit of about 15 euro every 2 days!!!!!! But we are sure that soon he will be able to buy a motorbike. As Jean François says “il sait où trouver l’argent” (he knows where to find the money).
This is the second week of Emmanuel our new director and so far there is a very good collaboration between the two. On Thursday they discussed together the split of responsibilities and Emmanuel will propose a job description for Désiré.
This week we visited 2 villages: Oualana and Sokourani.
When we arrive in Oualana, the villagers were not at the meeting place. One of the person in charge told us that a kid of 5 years old had died in the morning from a snake bite. The bite happened 3 days before and they took the child immediately to the medical dispensary in the neighbouring village, but they could not save him. Later on we went to give our condolences to the family. We did not see the mother, but the other members of the family were there as nothing had happened.
I probably mentioned this before, but when in Europe we are very sad when a child dies (he has not been able to make his life), here it is not so sad (we can always have another one). For older people it is also reverse feelings. An old man dies in Europe, he has made his life, it is not so sad. Here an old man dies, experience, wisdom is lost and it is very sad.
Jean Francois told us that actually the people cry a lot not of sadness, but because now they have to take the responsibility of the family and specially have large expenses for the funeral. This is another way to look at it.
In the month of September 3 villagers were bitten by snake, only the child died. Like in most of the villages, people grow corn up to the door step of the hut. Snakes can easily move around without being noticed looking for food or a cool place. Next year when it will be time to work the land, they will have forgotten the death of the child and will plant the same way again!!!
We did have the meeting with the villagers and the subject of unity in the village came up. Generally the problems are between the men for 3 reasons: women, land rights and money. An older man told us that they had enough land, that since they are a small village they educate the young to avoid the women problem. What was left was money. He told us that each time a villager take responsibility it is mainly because he thinks that he will be able to get some benefits for himself. If he does not get it normally, he will take it himself. Then obviously it create all kinds of resentment from the others. Very wise old man. This is a disease in all the villages we support.
The group of young people had put on their football shirts on. This is normally a sign that they will ask something. They did and wanted a soccer ball. We ask them how much it costs. Silence…. Désiré said it was around 20.000 cfa (€ 30) for a leather ball. We then ask them how many they were in the team. About 20 they answered. At this point quite a few of the villagers were laughing, knowing where we were going to. I asked them to compute how much it was then per person. The next question was how much do they get when they work 1 day in the field, answer: 500 cfa (€ 0,80). So I told them that if they all work 2 days in the fields and put the money aside they could buy the ball themselves. They then complained that it was difficult to find work in the fields where the owner actually pays them. We agreed then to buy them a ball if they could fund half of it, 10.000 cfa. When we were leaving the village they stopped us and gave us the 10.000 cfa. I am not sure what to think. Was I fooled and did I gave them what they needed to get the ball???
Young with their soccer shirt shouting “akili yelema” (change of mentality) with the other villagers at the end of the discussion.
While we were waiting for the villagers to gather, we went to the LAP which is in the village of Oualana. It was the first bread distribution and we were able to take the first class picture.
The visit in Sokourani was rather painful. First reason was that the letter which was supposed to inform them our visit was found on the desk of the secretary the day before the visit!! They were informed by phone / sms. Second reason was that the most important of the village Martin was not in the village. So we had in front of us a group of man who did not want to talk because the chief was not there and the villagers were not really ready to receive us.
While we waiting for the villagers to come we went to the school. The new recruits were only 8 when the expectation is between 40 and 50. They will come, but late. This is each year the same problem.
The first village settlement was where the school has been built. This settlement is bordered by a classify forest. With time the village needed more land and the only way was to go 12 km away on the other side of the forest. Most the farmers have 2 houses, one in the village and one in their field. Come the rainy season the families move to the field houses. The school year starts October 1st, this is too early for the families to be back in the village houses.
When we ask them what could be done to solve the problem. There was a long silence. I asked
the men if they had any ideas: nothing!!! Then I ask the women: nothing!!! I asked the women if they were afraid to talk because the men where in the meeting. There answer was yes. So we asked the men to go away under trees a bit further. We had then a very talkative group of women in front of them. It was actually difficult to stop them so that Désiré could translate. What they were saying is that in order to have the children in school on time, one of the women has to come to the village with them. She often has up to 10 kids to look after. Often she is not provided with food for them and she is always worry about this situation. To increase the frustration of this woman, she knows that the other women are happy in the fields (October is a slow month for field activities) with food and no children. So no woman wants to come back to the village before the man. She might also be afraid that the husband looks for other women while she is gone. We asked the men to come back and obviously they were not agreeing with the women. We have to think how we can help them to solve this problem, but first they have to realise it is a problem not to have the children in school on time. We are not yet there for a lot of farmers.
With us (Désiré, Emmanuel and me) we had also Alain and Karim from the social business side. In Sokourani we have got 27 hectares of land where the agricultural social business (Sene Yiriwali So or SYS) is growing certified seeds for its projects. Karim is in charge of this business and he has 2 farmers and 3 helpers with him.
Karim made a presentation of SYS to the farmers. What he is trying to do is to support their development in providing them with training, credit for fields inputs, mechanisation to work more land and finally with commercialisation of their harvest. All this done in a sustainable way.
This year they have exploited 17 hectares: 7 corn, 6 sesame and 4 beans. The land has a lot of termites and we understand why it was given to us!!!
This social business is very important to develop the village economy. If farmers have more revenues from their work and if they are able to put some of it on the side (this will be a tough battle), farmers will be able to think a bit further than they do today. Hopefully some farming and non-farming small businesses will be able to start and develop in the village.
I probably have put this type of bird on a previous message, but they are worth showing again, don’t you think so?
Take care of you. Until next week.