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!!!