Sunday, May 24, 2009

Helvetas the Hero

Introducing.... Christian Mouloki, my coworker and coach here at Helvetas. A 34 year old Congolese, Christian moved to Burkina to get his university degree in rural civil engineering. A successful young man, he is now the coordinator of the PACEA-Est program of Helvetas. PACEA-Est stands for "Programme d'Accompagnement des Communes de la region de l'Est en Eau et en Assainissement". Translation: Program for the support of eastern Burkinabè Communes in the domain of Water and Sanitation. This is the program that I am currently working with. Christian and his co-worker Nicholas Morand are the only 2 people currently working on this program, and since Nicholas is on vacation until June, Christian is bravely holding down the fort at PACEA-Est by himself. Now to explain a bit more about PACEA.

PACEA is a program that seeks to:
1. create access to local, affordable, and effective solutions to problems in the areas of hygiene, sanitation, and potable water
2. create a presence of local competent actors in the water and sanitation sector
3. decrease the prevalence of illness related to water and lack of sanitation.

Their strategy is:
1. support/advise the communes in their planning and management of water and sanitation projects
2. reinforce the capacity of the communes and local authorities
3. provide access to funding for projects by means of micro credit and communal investment funds

Helvetas’ strategy is based on one central idea: Learning by Doing!

The different actions that PACEA-Est takes include:
1. promotion of hygiene and sanitation by means of: creation of local groups to be in charge of sanitation promotion, plays and demonstrations about proper hygiene and sanitation practices
2. research and action: research of appropriate technologies to improve access to and storage of clean drinking water, improve garbage clean up and improve sanitation practices all by means of participative approaches.

Helvetas-PACEA Est currently works with 3 communes in Burkina Faso. They only start up a new project with a commune if the commune comes to them and asks for support, rather than forcing their help on the communes. The interaction with a commune starts with a letter of request for support to Helvetas written by the mayor of the commune. PACEA-Est then goes to visit the commune to see what kind of initiatives the commune already has to ensure that the partnership will not be one-sided, but that the commune is already putting a significant effort into improving their own situation. Then an agreement memorandum is signed by the mayor and Christian. Shortly after this, a study commences to analyse the state of the commune in regards to many different categories, ranging from waste disposal, to the management of rain water in the commune. It’s a thorough study conducted over a period of usually 30-45 days which aims to give the best representation of the entire community, and thus tries to create a representative sample audience when surveying. The results that are expected from this study are: a map of habitat distribution, the # of households, the # and positioning and condition of garbage deposits, the methods of garbage disposal, the perception of garbage, the perception of the link between excess garbage in the community and illness, recycling techniques used in the community, and the willingness of the community to work with Helvetas. After this study is completed, a study of the institutional capacity of the commune is conducted to find out which actors are currently involved in the water and sanitation sector, and which would be willing to once Helvetas becomes involved. The next step is the signing of the co-financing agreement of the first project between the commune and Helvetas. Then the project is launched!! There is also the creation of a technical committee that oversees/manages the project.
Woah lots of info.

Here's an image of the 3 communes that Helvetas works with. Bogandé and Thion in the province of Gnagna in yellow, Diapaga in the province of Tapoa in tan. And I'm based in Fada N'gourma in the province of Gourma in pink.

Now a quick update on the status of the 3 communes that PACEA is currently working with.

Bogandé: has already launched its first garbage cleanup project managed by the pre-existing Women’s Association in the community. The next step for Bogandé is the launch of a second project promoting the use of latrines in the community.

Thion: is at the stage of figuring out the needs of the community and getting set up for the study of the state of the commune. This is the only rural commune that PACEA-Est works with and so things are moving at a much slower pace.

Diapaga: is in the process of starting its study of the state of the commune and recruitment of the technical committee that will oversee the first garbage clean-up project.

I was lucky enough to go to Diapaga from Friday to Saturday of this week to witness the selection of the committee that would be conducting the study of the state of the commune. The study has thus just begun, and this is an exciting time for development in the commune of Diapaga.

Where do I fit into all of this, I am not quite sure yet. As I mentioned in my previous post about Helvetas, the expectations of my placement are that I am to create a method of evaluating and supporting the communes, support the Women’s Association in Bogandé, try and find a way of incorporating a Burkinabè volunteer into the communes and defining their role there. As of right now, I am doing my best to find out as much info about the communes, their structure, their interaction with Helvetas, and their capacity as possible. I will be visiting the Bogandé commune on Tuesday and will be able to give you some feedback on how their garbage cleanup project is coming along there.

Christian is very helpful in all of this, and we are both very excited about the collaboration between EWB and Helvetas!!


  1. Wow this kinda work sounds pretty awesome. Are you able to do any research about other community based water and sanitaiton projects? It seems like there have been a lot of attempts to approach wat/san from a community level, maybe looking into previous projects will help you find a good way to fit into this organization.
    It's cool that you seem to have a lot of tasks already, but they sound a little daunting.

    Good luck!

  2. Yeah i agree with James. The project that they have set you does sound very daunting and it does not sound like you have been given much direction yet as to how you are supposed to complete it. That's good though cause now you can do things your way! With lots and lots of sticky notes and listes! (Btw i cant believe you brought sticky notes to africa)I look forward to hearing about how you tackle your task! <3