Tag Archives: village


Impromptu Capacity Building

Impromptu life

Some middle school to high school girls ran into me while in village and asked if I could help them understand their menstrual cycles and how to track it.


Out with the downers and in with the owners.

Happy New Year and welcome to another year of service, sharing information, collaboration, and explicit / tacit knowledge.  I have not posted in about a month. No I did not forget about my blog nor did I forget about my online community.  Much of the delay was due to me coming to terms with the popular relationship slogan ‘its not you it’s me.’  However, in this specific case I want to report, it is not applied to a romantic relationship; it is credited to a donor that promised funding, but never came through.  The funding was to support the 2 chickens and a cock project which could have alleviated the hunger pangs and financial burden of hundreds in the village of Toéga, Burkina Faso (https://internationalesawyer.wordpress.com/2012/08/21/update-to-chickens-and-cocks/).

The donor approached the project last year February 2012, and bred excitement and promise into us.  I was always weary because I work in development and am very familiar with phantom donors.  Nevertheless, I contributed labor, money, and a lot of time since this project is dear to me. The months went by and I forged on with the villagers and my project manager. During those months the donor gave us hope by discussing airline itineraries, asking me to look up hotels, inquired about best seasonal times to visit and oversee the project, requested information on international wire transfers; however, after 8 months of this back and forth and no tangible action, I was left with the task of telling the village and especially those that helped in the initial construction phase, that ‘Its not you its Me!  I explained to hungry faces that we must come to an immediate halt as my funds were already dried up and there were no present donors to help fund the project.  And although during the 8 months I put out other applications for funding, those usually take several months from the deadline to award date (if you are lucky).  It was during my speech that I felt exactly like what I have tried to avoid in development work thus far; being the bearer of promise and extreme disappointment.  It was ME being the source of lost hope and lack of confidence.

Nevertheless, I am resilient and people are forgiving, therefore, I see this as a minor setback.  This incident is what we call a blessing in disguise.  I spoke with my project manager who was completely disheartened as this project is his ‘daily bread’; I told him it is probably better that we never received funds from this particular donor as it could have been the beginning of disastrous funding relationship.Image

When I dream I dream in GOLD!!!

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?


Wake up call is at 5 in the morning!

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November 1 is known as simply the day after Halloween in the United States.  However, in West Africa specifically Burkina Faso, it is known as ALL SAINT’S DAY or Jour de Toussaint.  I took the opportunity to go visit my host family in Koudougou which is 100 km west of Ouagadougou.  I took the first bus which is at 6 a.m. in the morning and arrives in Koudougou at 7h15 (pretty fast right).  I arrived approximately 1h15 later to sunny blue skies and my host brother waiting for me at the bus station.  November 1 is also his birthday so the visit was even more delightful.  I also took this time to work on my chicken farm where we are in the process of laying the bricks.  I hopped on the Moto with my host brother who is also appropriately named Toussaint (all saints in French) and we made our first stop to Toega a village a few kilometers outside of Koudougou.  Toega is the location of my chicken farm and I wanted to check on the progress along with put in some physical work.  Once arriving in the village, it is customary to greet the elders of the village before arriving at the work site.  So that is what we did we greeted the elders for about 10 minutes and walked over to the work site. There I found the fruit trees that were planted, the laying of the bricks and the expansion of the foundation.  I was pleased with the progress and the effort the village is putting in even during the harvest season.

Afterward I had a lovely lunch with my host family as we laughed and reminisced about my first encounter with them during my Peace Corps training.  Wow time flies and the two years as a volunteer seemed to have gone by even faster.

Please enjoy the photos.

Update to chickens and cocks.

Since my last posting of the project 2 chickens and a cock, I have been working on the execution of that project with my project manager Toussaint Yamego.  I decided that while the idea of 2 chickens and a cock is good, it will take a long time to grow and for the majority of the village to see the benefits.  One thing about development is that people like to see some kind of results or benefits rather quickly. This creates more buy in and ownership in projects that are over the course of a long period.  Therefore, I decided with the advice of my project manager to select a village and construct a chicken farm.  The chicken farm will provide a mass flow of chicken being raised and sold.  In addition, with the size of the land we will plant fruit trees that allow us to sell to local markets and to people willing to buy so that they themselves can sell.

Last weekend I took a trip to the village we selected. It is called Toega and it is 5 km from Koudougou a city which lies 100 km (or 1 hour drive from the capital Ouagadougou).  We selected this village because it is near a large city, it is not very populated, there is a lot of land, it is clean, and the people need something to create income.  The construction has started and we have so far built a hanger which will be the first home for the chickens.  This week we have a fleurist to give an assessment of the grounds to see what fruit trees will work well in our farm.  We have men coming in to make the bricks that will enclose the hanger.  They will also put up screens for further protection against mosquitos and other insects.

Camp of the people by the people

ImageA great association which I had the pleasure to work with briefly last August 2011 approached me to help them launch a camp for teenagers.  This concept of the camp is created by the Association of Jeunesse en Mouvement. They are a local NGO that specializes in youth and mobilizing youth and communities.  Last year they started a pilot program in which they had Burkinabé and French volunteers run a camp in a village 1 hour and 30 minutes from Ouagadougou.  They invited me to watch, participate, and contribute ideas.  The camp was with primary school students boys and girls between the ages of 7-12.  Students had lesson in the morning from 8 am – 12 pm. While in class they learned the phonics of French, math, and science.  From 12- 2 pm there would be the break for lunch and rest.  2:30 – 5 pm there would be outdoor games that promoted teamwork, and imagination.  From 5- 7:30 pm there was the dinner and break. At 7:45 pm until 10 pm at night the students and the volunteers would do cultural exchanges showing dances, and singing songs from french and burkinabé culture. Since I was the only American I of course did an exchange of American folk songs and primary school games. During the evening sessions there would also be the playing of instruments, and exchange of folklore.  The kids were never tired and loved participating.  This was a big step for this village as typically children are sent to help out in the farms during the summer.  They have to help their families cultivate as what they farm is what they live off of.  For a village to allow their children the future of the country participate in enrichment and extra curriculum activities is a great example of how Africans are ready to make the change and invest.

This June the founder of Association of Jeuness Gaspard Ouédrogou asked me to help him launch the same summer camp, however targeting teenagers between 14-19.  I quickly accepted.  The summer camp will provide only topics and activities the community identified as a need to have.  Therefore, the teens will participate in tree plantings, health awareness campaigns, and classes.  With my experience with youth, Gaspard told me that he could not think of any one better to help with this initiative.  My first task is to recruit girls and boys to participate.  The camp is from August 2- 17 2012 In the following locations Basnéré, Dahisma, Tangassogo, and Niangado.  These are all villages of Kaya (a city 1 hour 30 mins from Ouagadougou.

Thank you Gaspard for the invite.

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