Burkina Faso and Norwich: a community partnership

Published on: 1 July 2017

Three years ago, under the umbrella of the Norwich Christian Aid group, different churches joined together to form a 'community partnership' with local communities in the north of Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso is one of the world’s poorest countries. Almost half of its 16 million inhabitants live below the poverty line. Burkina Faso was severely affected by the drought and food shortages that have affected West Africa and left millions of people seriously short of food.

The partnership scheme is matchfunded by the EU and so for every £1 we raised, another £3 was given to the work. We also learnt a lot about healthy development work.

It was important to help people to become independent and not be dependant on us. We didn’t need to be the ‘heroes’ – we simply wanted to do what was best for the people. It became clear that they could be best helped in this context by funding resources like drought resistant seeds, proper tools and training which could be sourced locally.

We also learnt that there were excellent locals with expertise to help – the Church organisation ODE. People could do so much themselves – they don’t always need others to fly in to ‘rescue’ them and we shouldn’t underestimate them or their capabilities. As our commitment to this group is ending, the local government is continuing the scheme – another good example of development in that it becomes locally resourced.

We received reports about how the scheme was going both from Christian Aid, which monitored and facilitated the work, but also from local people. Perhaps Abibou Kanyala’s words, who lives in Ouaguissi with her five children, will illustrate what I am saying.

“Life in our village is characterized by poverty, inadequate food and many other needs. But the garden has considerably reduced our difficulties – that’s the good news here! To be part of this work I was involved at the beginning when we cleared the site. I received several training sessions, different seeds and materials and tools to work and ongoing support from ODE.

“Before I was making and selling peanut meal. I could gain maximum 2 500 FCFA, if not less. It is a very difficult job. Now, as well as my family being able to eat vegetables all year, even in different seasons, I can sell them and earn much more. This money allows me to contribute to the expenses of my family, such as the tuition of my two children who are still in school. With that money, I could buy a bike, kitchen utensils, a sheep and chickens to raise.”

Abibou’s life and many others in Burkina Faso have been changed. Our lives have been changed too in that we have learnt much. At heart, we are not so different from our brothers and sisters wherever we live on this earth. We all have needs and we can share our resources and knowledge so that everyone can live a reasonable and secure life with shelter, food, drink and human rights. We just need to do this well and in a way which gives people dignity and empowerment.

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