Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bogandé Round 2

The brave market clean-up crew

My first long duration stay in Bogandé back in early july was extremely successful and packed with activities. My objectives of this stay were to better understand the Women's Association's work, support their efforts, and find out how I could offer assistance to them. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find a host family for this first stay, but instead was hosted by a French volunteer, Estelle, who has a 3 year placement working for NutriFaso. I say unfortunately but really it was quite exciting to live this type of experience as well. I was able to see how she had integrated into the community over the past year, help cook all the meals with her, and get a look into what it's like to be a long-term overseas volunteer.

Here's a picture of Estelle, her friend Rosalie, and I.

It was great to have my independence during this week. Since Christian wasn't there I wasn't dependent on his schedule, and was able to accomplish all of the tasks that I wanted to at my own pace (a lot faster than his). I also got to set up all the activities and meetings that I wanted to and felt like I was really in control.

In order to better understand the women's perspectives, the role of the Technical Committee in the project and how the project was viewed by the commune I decided to set up casual interviews with members of the Women's Association, the Technical Committee, employees of the Mayor's office, the man in charge of the market and various citizen's with and without garbage cans.

The first day I set up a meeting with Mr Yarga Ali, the President of the Technical Committee who is also in charge of the Sanitation Sector in the mayor's office. He gave me a better insight into the Technical Committee's role in the garbage disposal project. The role of this committee is to provide technical advise for the project. The committee supervises the activities of the association and offers any help they can in support, outreach, building of infrastructures, and mobilization of the public. When the association has any problems they refer to this committee rather than to Helvetas since the goal of the partnership between the commune and Helvetas is for the commune to be able to run projects autonomously. He is very impressed by the women's work and is a great support for them. He sees real progress in the project and is proud when he sees his kids throwing their garbage in the associations bins.

Later in the day I set up a meeting with the president of the Women's Association Mme Lankoandé Clarisse. What an amazing woman. She founded the association back in 1992 with the main goals of creating an avenue for collaboration between all of the women of the commune, fighting for the promotion of women's status in the commune and fighting against all discrimination against women. All in all she aspired to fight poverty by emancipating women and providing them with work and dignity in the commune.

Here is President Clarisse proudly standing by one of the public garbages that will be emptied that day

She explained to me the different challenges that the women face in their work with the garbage disposal project including lack of support from the merchants in the market, gloves used for clean up that are filled with holes, lack of financial support from the mayor's office (which they had promised to provide and even signed a contract on), among many others. Yet she says with pride that the project is coming along well and that the women are making great progress on the cleanliness of the commune. She says that she has faith that in the future the project will help get the women out of poverty by the fees of clean-up, and that the women will be prosperous.

She also gave me some more details on the association itself. The Association consists of 120 members and an executive board of 8 members. There are many different areas in which the association works including outreach promoting women's rights and fighting for the elimination of female circumcision, forced marriages, violence against women. They also work to educate the citizens of Bogandé about healthy reproduction, HIV AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, malaria and tuberculosis. On top of the garbage disposal project they also make local soap and they impregnate mosquito nets. What a daunting task to be taking all of this on. But the women are courageous and soldier on.

There are 18 women officially involved in the garbage disposal project but about 40 more help out unofficially. After our meeting she walked me to the treasurer of the association's house, Mme Lankoandé Germaine, to have an interview with her. She explained the different financial troubles that they have and the lack of funds that they have to pay the outreach workers and the women who collect the garbage in the town. She says her motivations are providing a clean and healthy environment to live in for all of the citizens of Bogandé.

Day 2 was just as jam-packed and beneficial. I had set up a meeting time with the women who collect the garbage in town (charretières) at 7am but unfortunately when I got there and got all ready they were just coming back.

Me ready and enthusiastic to go clean up the town

Apparently since it had rained the women wanted to get the clean up finished early so they could go work in the fields with their families. Making good use of the adaptability I've developed over the past months I headed to the Mayor's office instead and set up a meeting with the Secretary General. This was quite the interesting meeting. I found out about 10 minutes in that he, not Mr Yarga Ali was supposed to be the president of the Technical Committee. The past Secretary General (SG) left his position with the mayor's office in February and Mr Tapsoba Sostène, the new SG, had taken over. The past SG had been the president of the Technical Committee as was stated in the official documents about the forming of the committee. During the transition period for the new SG, Mr Yarga Ali had taken over the position of the Technical Committee, and since Mr Tapsoba Sostène has been working with the commune he has not been passed over the responsibilities of the president.

He wasn't too happy about this at all. He felt excluded from the project, and felt that since he was officially president that no decisions should be made without his consent which is definitely not what has been happening. Power trip or genuine concern for the project?! I'm not sure. He therefore didn't have much information to give me about the project, only that he thinks it is a great initiative and he congratulates and encourages the women. He was however able to give me a lot of information on the functioning of the commune and the different roles of the employees there.

To be able to see both sides of things I talked to Mr Yarga Ali and Mme Lankoandé Clarisse about the SG's participation or lack there of in the Technical Committee. Their view of things was that the SG doesn't participate in meetings even when they invite him. His view on these meetings was that they just invite him there out of formality and that they have already made the necessary decisions. Hmmm I see an avenue where I may be able to be of assistance!!

The afternoon I spent reading up on the commune in documents that the SG had given me about the different roles and competences that each role must have. These were some great documents that will help me evaluate the capacity of the communes and see how I can help reinforce these capacities.

Day 3 I had organized to follow one of the outreach workers in the field. I met up with Lankoandé Aicha and her daughter Lankoandé Wassilatou and we headed out with her bike. She had been provided with a bike for her position but the paths were muddy and bumpy so we walked the bike instead. Our first stop was Mme Lankoandé Judithe's courtyard. (By the way since you haven't noticed, pretty much everybody in Bogandé has the same last name: Lankoandé, it's kind of nice because if simplifies the task of having to remember multiple last names). Aicha uses the SARAR images that she was given by CREPA another NGO that collaboratively works with Helvetas in the Water and Sanitation sector.
Aicha and Waissilatou animating

Her strategy is to show the images (of clean and dirty courtyards) and get the family to explain what they observe and if it is a clean or a dirty courtyard and why. Then she explains the association's work and tries to convince the family to buy a garbage bin for their courtyard. Beginner's luck or just a coincidence... JUDITHE AGREED TO BUY A GARBAGE BIN!!! I was so excited and proud of Aicha and Judithe. It made me so happy to see that the project was actually having an impact on the community. We headed off smiling to our next stop.

Judithe the Hero!!

It wasn't so much a planned route but whoever seemed home we stopped by. Unfortunately the next 3 houses we had less luck. This was good for me as well though to see what kind of barriers were preventing different families from buying garbage bins. Household #2 there was a women home and a bunch of her kids. We did the presentation in french this time since she was a french speaker as opposed to Judithe who only spoke Gulmancéma. The woman seemed very convinced about the benefits of the project and was very enthusiastic but said she couldn't make the decision herself. She lives in a communal courtyard and says she couldn't buy a garbage bin without consulting the others. We tried to explain that she could take the garbage bin just for herself and try to encourage the others to chip in but she said they would just throw their garbage in her bin without paying and this would punish her. Aicha said she would stop by again when there were other members of the courtyard home. Household #3 was a similar problem.

Outreach at household #3

There were tons of people home, about 20 but the head of the family was out working in the fields. The woman of the house said that without his consent she couldn't buy a garbage can even though she was all for the project. Again Aicha said she would come back. Household #4 was a women with lots of kids that were visiting on vacation. She said that she already has a pail that she puts her garbage in and the kids go and dump it to get burned next door. We explained the health concerns of burning garbage and she said that she knows because she works in health care. She says she doesn't have enough money right now because she has to take care of all of the kids that were there on vacation. We offered her the option of just paying for the collection of the garbage in her pail and that she didn't have to pay for a bin but she said to come back after the vacation was over.

Aicha says she normally does about 5 or 6 of these each day but finds it tiring to carry around her daughter on her back all of the time and also says she has problems with her bike. The more I learn about the association and their work the more challenges I discover. She said she will persevere but wonders when the project will start taking care of them financially and in emotional support.

In the afternoon I set up a meeting with the President of the Market, Hanro Diagnouaba Daouda. The market poses one of the greatest problems for the association because it is the messiest area of the commune, and also the merchants are not at all supportive of the project. Big garbage bins were recently built in the market and the president of the market thinks that this will solve all of the problems. I am not so sure.

Here's an awkwardly placed garbage bin that I'm not so sure will get used.

He says that no outreach is needed to encourage people to throw their garbage in the bins that they will simply do it because it is obvious. Really? He also says that the merchants will start to appreciate the women's work and that they will all come together to offer a financial contribution to the association. Again, really? In speaking with the women of the association they hope to organize a meeting with the merchants to sort out some kind of deal and try to educate them on the importance of keeping the town, especially the market, clean.

The next day I continued by meeting with the Secretary General to find out how we can better monitor and evaluate the progress of the project. I also spoke to a merchant on the main drag who has a garbage bin that he bought from the association to find out whether he's satisfied with the women's service or not. He says he's happy because now he doesn't have to deal with disposing the garbage himself. I guess this is better than nothing. I asked him if he was happy with the outreach that the women are providing and he said yes but that the women haven't come by for outreach work in a while because of the rains. Why does everything have to depend on the rain here, it makes things so complicated.

Again more interviews the next day. This time it was with the charretières and then with the secretaries of the association.

The charretières were able to give me the best feedback on the problems of the organization since they're the ones actually cleaning up the garbage!! They too spoke of the challenges of the rainy season, the market's unwillingness to participate, the mockery of the public, and the ripped gloves. They also spoke of their desire to do composting to bring in more money (sell the compost) and reduce the amount of garbage in the final depot. They are very proud of their work though and say that the association/comrades act as a motivator and unites the women. They say they are happy with the money that they are making right now because they know it's only the beginning and that it will get better. They too soldier on.

Here is my meeting with some of the charretières, the president and the treasurer

I spoke with the secretaries about the possibility of creating a reporting system to better measure the progress of the project and better communicate the needs and difficulties of the association to the technical committee and they were all for it. They told me to create a template and that we'd go over it next time I came to visit. This got me really pumped because I think this will really help the women out.

My last day was an exciting hands on experience. I went with the charretières at 6am to the market to help them clean it up nicely for the weekly market that was to happen the next day, Sunday. We emptied different merchant's and restaurant's garbages along the way. Once we got there we found a group of about 25 women already sweeping up and cleaning up the market. No protection, no tools, no nothing. These were the unofficial members of the garbage clean up project who voluntarily get to the market at 4:30 to sweep up the market so that when the charretières get there their task is simplified. WOW. The job was still daunting though. The amount of garbage that collects over a week in a market is crazy. There was everything from chicken feathers and animal bones to cans and fabric. The women got straight to work and picked up their pitchforks and shovels. The president of the association came and offered to find me a chair so I could watch the women work. I laughed politely and picked up my own pitchfork.

I was not there to be an observer. The women were very appreciative of my help and also loved that I wore their green outfit and boots to fit in with the group. Man what a tiring job. There was a mountain of garbage that we spent about 2 hours shoveling and cleaning up and putting into the 2 donkey carts. Then off they went on the 3km walk to the final depot to dump all of the garbage. Unfortunately I had to head out to be able to get to Ouagadougou in time for a big soccer game with my team.

Until next time in Bogandé :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

To the beat of the Djembe

The first thing that many people think of when they think of Africa is drumming and dancing. They think of tribal costumes, animalistic dancing and the beating of a djembe. My first musical experiences were nothing like this. I have had a lot of musical experiences in the churches here but this post is dedicated to the more unique outside of church music since I have another post coming up about religion. Like many of my experiences here so far, my first musical performances that I witnessed were ones that I had sought out and with little idea of what they would be like set out to discover.

Way back in May was my first musical experience outside of church which like I said was far from being traditional. Burkina mother’s day is a little bit later than Canadian mother’s day, and as I described early on in my blog, I went to church for a special mother’s day mass. The day afterwards I found out about a cultural evening being organized by the catholic youth of Fada to celebrate mother’s day. My host brother offered to accompany me so we headed out on his motorcycle. This cultural night was NOTHING like I was expecting. It was a mix of air bands, short plays, fashion shows, and sexy dances with a little bit of religious singing thrown in the mix. The kids had prepared lots of provocative dance routines and religious songs which were in some way supposed to celebrate their mothers. I was a bit lost I must say, but on the other hand I found it absolutely hilarious. There were 6 year old girls modeling traditional outfits and blowing kisses to the audience. There was an 8 year old couple doing a sexy air band to one of Burkina’s latest hits. And to top it all off, there was preaching and singing about Jesus. Me and Sostène laughed our heads off. The most hilarious part was that although this was supposed to be an event celebrating the children’s mothers I could see about 4 or 5 mothers in a crowd of over 200 people. What a night.

My second musical experience is tough competition with the first for being far from traditional. I had repeatedly seen posters around town about a music performance that was to be held at the Ciné Yendabili which is the outdoor cinema. Convinced this was something I had to see I invited my friend Mab to go check it out with me. We arrived at 8:15pm for the 8pm concert to find that nothing had started yet… Surprise surprise, I was starting to get used to living on ‘African time’. The concert finally started around 9pm and turned out to be a local fadalese rap group named Gulmu Revelation!! What an experience. Not only were most of the songs rapped in Gulmanchéma so I couldn’t understand anything, but also you could clearly tell that NONE of their songs were live. (There would be 2 people rapping in the song at times and only one guy would be on stage.) I guess you can only ask so much from a concert sponsored by the local instant coffee Chicorée. At least we got free samples :)

Gulmu Revelation in concert with the big Chicorée sign in the background

Three times lucky they say. My third musical experience was a winner, not that the others weren’t entertaining!! A couple of weeks ago I made the 10 hour trip to the other side of the country to Bobo Dioulasso for my EWB coach’s wedding. She and her long time boyfriend another EWB long term overseas volunteer had decided to get married before their return to Canada in July. The wedding was 2 days long. Day 1 was in a village called Kimidougou which was just a short distance outside of Bobo… well just a short distance if you’re not crammed into a broken down taxi that keeps stalling in the mud with 7 other people in fancy wedding clothing. The wedding ceremony was held in the local Catholic Church and the drumming and singing drew everyone nearby in to witness it. It was a beautiful ceremony with lots of singing and dancing. The after party in the village was even more lively.

The wedding attendees made a big dancing circle and people jumped in to dance in groups of 2. I bravely took my turn and all of the Burkinabès were so excited that I was taking part in the action. There was also little boys dancing in another circle and they were quite talented and great to watch.

dancing and music at village after party
Again at night back at the newlyweds host family we danced and sang the night away. Here we were also accompanied by the guitar playing groom and sang some good old Québecois songs… none of which I knew but luckily we had the lyrics!

The next day the wedding was at the Mayor’s and was much more official. The celebration afterwards was much more official as well. A red carpet and red carpet ropes led the newlyweds to their head table where champagne awaited them. Because this celebration was back in Bobo it was MUCH bigger. Truly everyone in the community had heard about it and no invitation was needed to bring them out to share in the festivities. There were even some women who apparently go to all weddings and sing songs about the bride and groom’s family and then ask for money. I’m not sure what they could have known about the bridal couple, but they came and sang and begged just the same. We indulged in the traditional wedding snack of popcorn, deep fried shrimp paste and little brown crunchy sweet things… interesting mix. Then we had riz gras and ratatouille. After the eating was done the dancing and drumming began again. More of the nasaras joined in on the dancing this time, and we all learned a couple of new moves. The energy was amazing, and the instruments and music as well.

Musicians at the wedding afterparty

My most recent musical experience came while I was staying in Bogandé last week. The weekend prior had been the initiation of the new chief but unfortunately I had missed it because of the wedding. The week that I was there though they celebrated the 50th anniversary of an ancient chief’s death. This chief was the father of the newly initiated chief. The start of the celebration wasn’t the most exciting. They started off by reading the biography of the old chief and then the biography of the new chief. It was all in Gulmanchéma and was quite the long process… these are no young men we’re talking about. After that though things got more exciting. Drums and dancers came out to get things happening. The dancers this time were solely men which I hadn’t seen since I’ve been here. They moved so fast I could barely keep my eyes focused. It was quite the spectacle, and managed to keep away the rains that were brewing above. Apparently the village rain chief had been doing his work well.

Drummers at the 50th anniversary celebration

So after having tried ALL day to upload videos of these various events I will have to settle for pictures. They don’t really capture the experience as well, but you’ll just have to come check out my videos when I get back. My next music and dance experience is again going to be very non traditional and unique. My soccer team is organizing a night to go out in Fada and hit up the dance floor to celebrate our season. This is where my dancing will truly be put to the test with my 25 girl friends watching. Wish me luck :)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Les Hirondelles

Haro passes to Ido who deeks around her opponent and makes a beautiful cross to Tjebbes… wait a minute… there’s a white girl on this team?!?!

For those of you who know me well, and probably even those who know me less, you would have to agree that one of the most exciting things for me to discover here in Fada would be a WOMEN’S SOCCER TEAM!! Not only did I discover Fada’s women’s team, The Hirondelles, and support them at one of their games, but I am now on the starting line-up as center mid and travel around the country with the team for championship matches.

Being part of the Hirondelles has been one of the best parts about my integration here in Fada. Not only do I now have 25 amazing girl friends but I also have a great daily exercise built into my schedule, and I have definitely broken down the tourist barrier. No one dares question my integration in the community when they hear that I am officially registered with the local team.

The registration process was a challenge. I had to submit passport pictures, a copy of my passport and have a medical check-up. Ironically the doctor doing my medical check-up was the same one I had seen a week prior with complaints of extreme fatigue, uhoh. Luckily he gave me the go ahead stamp and my registration was sent off to the Fédération Burkinabè du Football. This is where things get even more challenging. The woman in charge of the registration was on maternity leave and apparently her replacement was less than competent. After training hard for a month without playing any games, and after a lot of string pulling by my coach my registration finally came through 2 weeks ago.

So now I am officially an Hirondelle!! For the past month and a half though I have been training with the team. And what a training schedule they have. Not only do we practice 6 days a week but in the first couple weeks of the championships the coach had them practicing in the mornings at 6am as well as our usual 4pm practice. I couldn’t attend the 6am practices because of work, and even had to change my work schedule around so I could get to the 4pm practice on time. I changed from working 7:30-6:30 with a break from 12:30-15:00 to now working what’s called “journée continue” from 7:30-14:30. It’s pretty tiring working all day straight and then heading off to soccer practice in 35+ degree weather, but it’s oh so worth it. It keeps me healthy, de-stressed, and very happy!!

One thing I don’t like too much about practice is one of the three coaches. He is a bit of a downer and instead of teaching the girls what they should do, he is constantly yelling “C’est pas bon!!” and criticizing the girls which doesn’t really help anybody. He is a bit of a slave driver as well, but it keeps me fit and healthy which is a great bonus!!

The friends that I have made because of this team are probably the best part of the experience. Above is a picture of my best friend, teammate and neighbour Fati braiding my little sister Océane's hair. The team is so welcoming and fun, and being a part of the team has really opened up my social circle. They are so caring and whenever I can’t make it to practice because of work or because I’m sick I get a ton of concerned text messages seeing if I am ok. I bike to practice with my best friend Fati, and on the way home we bike back with Aissatou and sometimes Monique. I have become great friends with the girls on the team, and have also gotten to be friends with a lot of the supporters and the men’s team as well. The men practice on the same field as us, and we each come out and support each other when we have games.

This is us out supporting the men's team who won 2-0 against Ouaga that day!! From left to right is Fati, Okosha's friend, Okosha, Me, Djelika and one of our coaches Charles. The row behind us you can see Evaste and Salimata and in front is another Salimata.

I’ve never played a game where there are so many enthusiastic fans!! There are always at least 75 fans cheering from the sidelines, and it really gets your adrenaline pumping and puts the pressure on. It’s the first year that the Hirondelles are playing in the official women’s league of Burkina Faso. Before that they played against other school teams, or other sector teams in Fada… much less organized. Because of this there have been some tough games against the Ouagadougou teams who have been part of the league for years. There are 6 teams in the league. 3 Ouaga teams (les Princesses, les Gazelles and another team whose name I forget), 1 team from Ouahigouya (pronounced wayagouya), 1 team from Kaya, and us. As of 2 weeks ago we were in 5th place, but after having tied 0-0 last weekend and having won 2-0 this past Sunday we have moved up to 4th!! Pretty impressive for a first time team.

Here's a picture of the intense fans and the even more intense security guards with mace, batons, guns and major protection

My first official game was last weekend but I travelled with the team to support them for the games before that and played in an exhibition game where I scored my first goal!! The road trips are amazing. When we go to Ouaga to play we wake up at 4am on Sunday to get to the meeting place at 5am for our departure. We ride in a “dix-sept”, a ‘seventeener’, which is supposed to mean that it fits 17 people, but never have I ever seen a “dix-sept” carry any less than 20 people. They are usually JAM-PACKED with people, bags, bikes, motorcycles, and in our case, lots of soccer gear. Needless to say, the ride home when we are all sweaty and exhausted is less enjoyable. So we leave at 5am (well 5am African Time which usually means 6am) and head off to Ouaga. We stop off at Koupela to have omelets and tea and then continue on.

This is the bus that Ouahigouya came in to play against us in Fada and is the same kind of 17 that we travel in

Once we get to Ouaga, around 9 or 10 we head to the team’s hangout to relax and catch some shuteye. The hangout is an artist’s studio that becomes the team’s rest house whenever we’re in Ouaga. There’s mattresses lain out all over the floor and those who can handle the heat and cramped sleeping conditions take a nap before lunch. Then we all head off to eat lunch in the same restaurant. The food is already made, and on coach’s orders we all eat riz sauce tomate so as to be able to easily digest before the game. Then back to the house again to sleep and take turns in the shower. If we’re in a rush it’s 2 at a time in the shower, and yes the shower is a bucket of cold water in the outdoor latrine. We pack our now 25 people into the dix-sept since we picked up a bunch of little kids who are going to act as ball retrievers during the game. We warm up at the field and try to sort out who gets which shin pads this week. The shin pads are provided by the team, but I wouldn’t really call them shin pads. There’s also a good quality pair of cleats that belongs to the team that one lucky girl gets to wear each week. The rest wear broken down, hole filled cleats that may or may not be the right size for their feet (it’s better than what they wear at practice which is either flip-flops or little jelly belly sandals with holes everywhere).

Some of the team at the hangout spot. Left to right: Ramatou, Aisha, Hariette and Salif

After the game we cram back into the dix-sept and head off to eat. Now we have the choice of what to eat and most choose riz gras or riz sauce pâte-d’arachide. After a long and exhausting day we cram back into the dix-sept and make the 3.5 hour trip home. We usually get home around midnight and all saunter off home on our bikes or various motorcycles. As you can tell the team really sticks together on game day. Even when we play at home we have to meet up at 8am and hang out the whole day together, eating our meals together and napping together. It’s a whole different story than everyone all using their own methods of transportation to get to the game and jetting off as soon as the final whistle blows like in Vancouver.

Adji, Djelika and Okosha sharing their meal after our game last weekend

So you guys must be curious to know what it’s like to be the one white girl in the entire league. Unfortunately my race definitely has an impact on my place in the team. At practice if I do a drill well or score a nice goal, my coach will yell to the girls “See, look at how the nasara does it”. He also likes to use me as an example in drills and I can’t tell if it’s because I’m the white girl, or if it is because I have had different training and bring a different aspect to the team. I try to avoid all the praise I can and make sure the team knows that I am not superior by any means because of my race. In games I definitely stand out like a sore thumb. Again that word nasara comes out as the audience cheers from the sidelines. They are starting to get used to me now though so I feel much less like an outsider to the team.

Fati and Djelika after our game in Ouaga

I did have a funny experience a couple of weeks ago with the radio. We were at practice and there was a guy walking around with a microphone who came to talk to our coach. He was asking the coach all sorts of questions, and after a while we stopped paying attention. All of a sudden I have a microphone about 2 inches from my face, and this guy asking me how I got involved with the team. Me being totally oblivious to who he was I explained my story without stopping to think why this random guy was holding a microphone to my face. The next day I went to visit my friend Didier and the first thing he said to me was “I heard you on the radio this morning”. I laughed and thought it was a joke. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that the guy from the night before had been someone from the radio. Didier said it would be coming on again at 11am so I stayed around and waited and sure enough heard myself on the radio!! There really is a first time for everything!

The championships are over now, but the practices continue on. There was an enormous storm last night, but we’re guaranteed to be practicing even if it’s on the dirt mud patch beside the sopping wet field.

Hope you enjoyed this rather unusual post and can appreciate how much this team is a part of my experience here.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bogandé Ville Propre

So, although it may seem from my blog that it’s been all fun and games so far here in Burkina, I have actually been doing a lot of work and have been dedicatedly working my way through my terms of reference. As I have mentioned before I am based in Fada N’gourma because PACEA-Est’s head office is here, but the majority of my work is actually in the communes of Bogandé, Diapaga and Thion. The reason that my work focuses on the commune of Bogandé is because PACEA is very well established there, and I am thus able to obtain an understanding of how the partnership works, and I am able to work with their existing garbage clean-up program to help them improve their functioning.

Here a photo of me with the Women’s Association of Bogandé the first time that I met them.

The first 3-6 weeks of a JF placement is called the orientation and planning period. During this period I was in the Fada office a lot reading countless documents and reports about PACEA, trying to cram as much info into my head as possible. I read about how the partnerships with the communes are put into place, all of the logistics of the partnerships (budget, co-finance agreement), all of the different studies that are conducted in a commune before a project is put into place, and the different projects, results and evaluation tools. LOTS OF READING!!! I also made a couple of trips to Bogandé, and one to Diapaga in order to meet all of the people that I would be working with, and get a better sense of what the partnerships between PACEA and the communes looked like in reality.

Here's my office where I spend my time reading endless documents and planning impact

During this period I took advantage of the fact that my counterpart at Helvetas, Christian, was very willing to help me out, and always eager to engage in intense development discussions with me. I set up a weekly Friday meeting with him where I ask him 10 questions and we discuss each one in detail. My questions usually pertain to things I’ve learned about or read about during the week, but are not limited to questions about PACEA’s functioning. Questions range from: Why concentrate on garbage disposal in Bogandé? to What is the role of education in development in your opinion? I will write a whole post about these questions because I have gotten a lot of great information and insight out of these discussions and they are often the highlight of my week!! I also take this opportunity to ask Christian for feedback on my progress throughout the week and discuss my objectives for the coming week. We also often have discussions about topics like female genital mutilation or homosexuality in Burkina which are quite taboo topics and it is rare to find someone who will openly talk about them. I am so grateful to have him as my coach within the organization and as a cultural informant for Burkina as well.

Over the past 7 weeks I have also been developing my impact plan for the summer, and planning my longer stay in Bogandé. There’s a lot to accomplish and the clock is ticking so I’m glad that I’ve finally matured out of the planning and orientation phase and am ready to move into the ACTION phase!!

Taking action in Bogandé started with a presentation that I gave to the Women’s Association and Technical Committee of Bogandé last week. I had already presented myself and met them on a couple of occasions, but last week I gave a presentation on my summer impact plan, I presented EWB in a more detailed manner, explained my role and responsibilities with Helvetas and EWB, and I gave them the chance to share their expectations of my stay and any questions that they had for me. I ran this presentation alone, and arranged for Christian not to be there so I could get the most in depth interaction with the association and committee without barriers. I started out my presentation in Gulmanché which everyone really appreciated. They were impressed and excited that I was learning their language. One point for me :) I went around the circle and had everyone introduce themselves and share either an expectation or question for my presentation or an expectation for my placement as a whole. It’s a bit intimidating to get 3 responses of, “We want you to share your expertise and teach us how to better run our garbage clean-up program”, in a row seeing as I have absolutely no expertise in running a garbage clean-up program, but the presentation helped explain more what my role is, and what I hope to bring to the association.

The best part of the presentation was at the end when I asked for feedback on the garbage clean-up project so far. Whenever I had been with Christian and I had asked this question or he asked the women if all was well they would nod and smile and assure him that there were no problems. Now finally without him being there I was able to get to the root of their problems and really get to understand the project better!! They were very open with me, and shared concerns such as being mocked by Bogandé citizens, not being paid enough, wanting to start a composting and recycling program, and the market being the most urgent target area. I came away from this meeting with my mind racing with ideas and plans and over the last couple of days have been creating an action plan with how to help them deal with their problems.

I have decided to conduct informal interviews with the different actors in the Women’s Association, the Technical Committee, the Mayoral Office, and in Bogandé households to really get everyone’s perspectives on the project. With the help of my EWB coach I put together a list of questions that I will go through with the different stakeholders next week. I am excited that everyone is very open with me, but also apprehensive about the interviews because I am afraid they will reveal more problems than I will be able to deal with. For example, the problems that the outreach workers in the women’s association have will be much different than those of the women who are actually doing the garbage pickup, which will again be different than the concerns of the treasurer. Lots of work to do but my motivation is 10/10 right now so I’m going to take advantage of it.

The new bins in the market!

While in Bogandé last week we also visited numerous sites that pertain to the Garbage clean-up program. We went to see the new bins that are being constructed in the market to try and target this problem area and get them to clean up their act. It is really neat because the bins are being made by local workers, so the project is really very autonomous and supports local businesses. There are 4 bins that are currently being built in the market and 1 extra one in Sector 4 of the city as per request from the mayor because this is one of the dirtiest sectors.

We also went to see the final disposal centre (picture above) where the women hope to start a sorting system and a composting project. The women are provided with gloves and protective outfits in order to sort through the garbage, and in the fall they hope to have enough funds to start the composting and recycling project. This is one of the most exciting parts for me because this is an area that I feel I can actually have some impact. No I don’t know a lot about composting and recycling, but I certainly know more and have better resources to find out more than these women do. I am currently putting together a presentation each about composting and about the 3 Rs. If anyone has any spare time to do some research for me about composting or recycling in developing countries that would be very much appreciated!! This is a way that you guys can help me out too and have some impact overseas!

Me symbolically lifting the load at the dump

I will be in Bogandé all of next week and will be following around the different stakeholders of the women’s association in their activities such as going around with these beautiful green carts shown below to collect the garbage and weekly payment from participating households and institutions in the program, doing outreach in homes to encourage them to practice proper hygiene and sanitation, or keeping the books in order when it comes to the finances of the association. It will be exciting to see everything that I have read so much about in action. I will be staying in Bogandé for a week with a host family and will then come back to Fada in order to reflect on what I’ve experienced, and create an action plan for week 2. I think it will be good to take a step back after week 1 in order to create the best plan for week 2.

The green carts and household garbages with "Bogandé Ville Propre" as their slogan

Another initiative that I hope to start with the Women’s Association is a monitoring and evaluation report. As I mentioned before, I have read COUNTLESS reports about the program, but not a single one written by the Women’s Association. The reports are either written by consultants conducting studies on the project or by Christian and don’t evaluate the progress of the project or share the opinion of the women. I would like to start up a reporting system so that PACEA can better understand the women’s problems and eventually improve the functioning of the program and the partnership with PACEA. I am very excited about this initiative and the women seem to really like the idea as well. After week 1 I will be putting together a template for a report and will test it out in week 2.

Lastly while I am in Bogandé I am working on learning about the functioning and structure of the mayoral office. Since I am the first volunteer working directly with a commune, EWB is interested in finding out as much information about the communes as possible in order to determine whether it is a sector that the overseas team wants to continue to work with.

I am supposed to develop a way to evaluate the capacity of the commune and seek to place a local Burkinabè volunteer in the commune to help the commune further develop it’s capacity. I will be setting up a meeting with the Programme National de Volontariat Burkinabè in the coming weeks, and will also be conducting interviews with the different actors in the Bogandé Mayoral office in order to determine what role a local volunteer would play, and what their main organizational challenges are.

As you can see there is a lot to do so I better get back to work!! We also just recently moved into this new office and are thus also busy with unpacking stuff. It is practically a mansion!! Doesn’t fit in in the neighbourhood at all and is quite the change from our other office. Having to walk up stairs again is weird haha.

Like I said I would love any help I can get on researching compost or recycling ideas for developing countries! This is a great way for you to contribute to my placement :)