I remember in my village and many other places where poverty exists (even in United States) people say a phrase that has now come to haunt me…”il n’y a pas l’argent” Translated: there is not any money. My village during my 2 years of Peace Corps service was in Tchériba 184 km west of the nation’s capital Ouagadougou. People dreamed of just being able to have the chance at money. They dreamed of how much better their lives would be with money. They discussed how all these material things would make their lives better and how small measures of development would improve their lives 10-fold. From lack luster to Luck lester
Well that day has finally come for the almost 12,000 residents of the village of Tchériba. In 2011 a village between 10-15 km from Tchériba was surveillance and gold was discovered. Once news of this broke out every day I heard people saying that soon gold will be discovered in Tchériba, Burkina Faso. Well they were right. Earlier in 2012 gold was indeed discovered in an environmentally protected forest in the village of Tchériba. Since then all those dreams of not living in abject poverty have deceased. People by the hundreds including children and women, even handicapped persons hike their way to the forest at night (the guards survey during the morning and day- it is illegal to dig etc. in protected forests) to dig tirelessly for the precious metal-GOLD! Some people have been lucky where they have found up to 20, 000 USD worth of gold. Can you imagine what 20,000 dollars translates to, to someone that gets by on 1 dollar if that a day. To put in clearer perspective, in Burkina Faso the currency is the CFA. Therefore 20 thousand USD becomes a jackpot of 10,236,690.42 CFA. What is someone to do with that kind of money? Piece of mind in the form of Gold
Well this is what people do when their prayers of money are answered. It is a scene of chaos. It is development gone wrong where children are no longer in class because they are attracted to the fast money of gold, high school aged girls have higher paying clients for prostitution, store owners can increase the prices of goods by 4 times as much. A plastic bag of water used to cost 25 cfa now costs 100. Due to the gold rush there are many visitors from neighboring countries such as Ghana, Benin, and Togo. The environment can not hold the share volume of people. This means filth in the form of human waste and manmade waste has tripled. Disease is more “abundant” as there is no running water in this village nor are there sufficient latrines. Moreover, even if there were sufficient number of latrines people are not disciplined enough nor trained to use the latrine. They are conditioned to relieve themselves anywhere in nature. This gold rush as increased and added to the slew of socioeconomic problems not to mention added health and hygiene risks. There is the introduction of high profile prostitution, drug and alcohol addiction, the eventual collapse of work and organizations. The heath risks are no lesser, with the inhalation of dust and amateur handling of chemicals the population is vulnerable to bronchitis, skin diseases, asthma, and other diseases that affect the lungs and heart. Because people are mining for gold in the darkness of the forest, they are susceptible to snake bites and scorpions. In addition there is the socio- cultural aspect of the “Great African Gold Rush.” People can now “afford” the “finer” things of life such as motos and cell phones. With that comes increased theft. Crime and violence have doubled in just a short few months. Crime against women and children are also on the increase with rape and other physical violence on the rise. Children and Gold
My parents always say be careful what you pray for. People in this village always cried about not having money as the reason they couldn’t send kids to school, feed their families, and progress. However, since the gold rush the exact opposite has occurred; with school enrollment at the lowest point in 5 years. The ones that have found gold have used their newfound wealth for everything other than sustainable progression and development. What they have prayed for has arrived and with the high rates of illiteracy, not many know how to use this to their sustainable benefit. Rushing to gold, Killing to mine
I guess the moral of the story is (or one of the morals) you can’t wait for money to do something. In this village just picking up trash and putting your own trash in a waste bin was impossible. They would tell me since there is no money the government has not sent anyone to collect trash. Meanwhile that has nothing to do with each person throwing their trash in an identified place rather than anywhere in nature. Now what is worse is that strangers from other countries come and support the same behavior because if you don’t respect your own house than how can you oblige someone else to?