Thursday, May 7, 2009

Commune Capacity Building

At last the long anticipated details of my placement. I will be working in eastern Burkina Faso with an organization called Helvetas which is the Swiss organization for international cooperation. Helvetas’ work in Burkina concentrates on 3 areas: promoting organic cotton, improving access to rural villages, and water and sanitation. The area that I will be working with is water and sanitation. In Burkina Faso, only 51% of the rural population has reasonable access to drinking water. In terms of sanitation it is hard to measure the quality of it, but it is know that only 14% of the population has usable latrines. This situation has led to the prevalence of illness because of poor water quality, and lack of sanitation. Helvetas has decided to engage itself to improve this situation.

Since 2006, Burkina Faso has been in the process of decentralizing its government. They are moving from a national government in control of the entire country to local governments called communes. These communes are locally elected government structures similar to the French communes that were created at the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. One of the governmental responsibilities that is being transferred from the national government to the communes is water and sanitation. This is where Helvetas comes in. The communes are still in the process of establishing themselves, and are having difficulty bringing water and sanitation into their mandate. New initiatives such as latrinization (the construction of latrines) and waste disposal need to be authorized and organized by these new governments. Helvetas is helping these communes build their capacity and take ownership of the water and sanitation of their regions.

I will be working with the Bogandé commune in the province of Gnagna to build their capacity and help them take charge on the areas of water points, latrines and waste. I will be back and forth between Bogandé and Fada N’gourma where the head office of Helvetas is. Apparently I will be in Bogandé for 70% of the time, and in Fada N’gourma for 30% of the time. Bogandé is a small 8,900 person village north of Fada N’gourma by about 140km. Fada N’gourma is the capital of the Gourma province and is much larger at 221,000 people. It will be nice to be located in both of these areas because I will get a great taste of rural African life, and more urban life as well. I am not sure yet how I will travel back and forth between Fada and Bogandé, or where I will be living in either of these towns, but this is the excitement of going to Africa, there are so many unknowns, and so much to learn. Another exciting thing about my placement is that I will be the first EWB volunteer to partner up with Helvetas. This is a new initiative that we are exploring, and I will be the one to lay the stepping stones for future Junior Fellows to partner up with Helvetas. That is one of my goals at least :) From the details that I have received about my placement, the objectives of my contribution overseas will be to identify the necessary skills that the communes need to acquire, create a tool to evaluate the communes, and create a setup for future volunteers with Helvetas. Another portion of my work will be to support a local women’s organization that is managing a latrinization campaign and a putting together a solid waste disposal program.

All in all I will be working with Helvetas to support the newly established communes in order to help them develop the skills they need to manage the water and sanitation sector on their own.

The expectations of Helvetas for my placement have been lain out in a detailed document so I am excited to explore these and set my own expectations for the next 4 months of my adventure!!!


  1. Wauw annelies,
    wat super gaaf allemaal!!!
    ga je ook foto's plaatsen ergens?
    dikke kus!

  2. Eeep! 3 days left and we will be in Burkina! Excitement and everything!

    I think this is a pretty cool link to look at. Hope it helps some!

  4. Thanks for keeping us so informed. Great description of the political structure of the local situation (just like we were talking about the French communes). This will provide an opportunity for you to develop administrative and evaluative skills.....looks like much more than dealing in shit!
    (nice haircut!)
    Your current living experience in Toronto is giving you good insight into living communally.
    Have fun with it.

  5. Good luck! It seems like you'll be working on a very meaningful project. I'm sure you'll find your Dorothy and get great things done!

  6. holler. looking forward to hearing your first impressions of Burkina!

  7. Marleen: photos coming soon. I now have my computer set up at my office so I will be able to upload them this weekend. That is my plan as soon as I get back from my field study Saturday morning :)

    Mom: going to visit one of the communes tomorrow so I will keep you updated on the structure and administrative details. Been reading a lot of documents as well to prepare. starting to feel much more informed about what Helvetas and the communes do and their interaction together.

  8. Annelies!

    Apologies for not getting to reading your blog earlier. It's been hectic what with survey school, Sasquatch, and graduation. But I'm glad I found time to sit at a computer just now and catch up with what you've been doing. And I must say:

    My God! Your placement sounds freaking sweet!

    Decentralization of government, water and sanitation, and women's groups? This is the kind of work that makes me want to apply for a long term placement. The commune idea sounds really interesting and I'll be sure to try to follow it after you've come back and disseminated all of your information to the rest of the chapter. I love it because Kaitlynn loves bringing up colonialization and arbitrary country borders in the Root Causes workshop and it's really cool to hear that these kinds of things are being worked on.

    Anyways, long comment... and I'm only on the third post. The Dorothy story was also really nice, and I don't think I have a Dorothy either. Or maybe mine is just a concept/idea that can't be embodied in a person. We'll see...

    I miss you and I look forward to hearing more about everything,


  9. Arianne,

    Sooo great to hear from you!!! I just recently read your entry in my little book and I was touched. Thank you so much. I really appreciated getting to know you better over the past couple of months and can't wait to hang out in the fall.

    How was Sasquatch and graduation? I'm sure Sasquatch was a nice reward for the hard work at survey school and school in general.


    yeah my placement is pretty sweet!!! I am stoked about it. Also my coworker/coach is super awesome and helpful with getting me integrated and up to date on the program and organization.

    What else have you been getting up to this summer? I am curious to know. It is always exciting for me to feel connected to Vancouver.

    Anyways take care

    miss you