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 :)


  1. hey Annelies! very cool post, it's good to have a better idea of that youre up to.

    on the recycling note, i deal a lot with scrap metals here in the Magazine and am pretty well connected with the metal recycling industry in ghana. i imagine since BF is not as developed, the facilities and industry don't exist there, so it may be a cool project or income generating idea for people to consider international scrap metal recycling in ghana.

    cheers :)

  2. ps, is that an air-con system i see on the front of the building?!? luxury much? such a bad JF....

  3. ANNELIES!!!!!
    Ok so great post, we both chose to really talk about work this week, haha.
    Love the pictures and hearing about your job. You really seem to have a great placement going.
    I was wondering if you had pictures of people in action with the garbage collection. I also was wondering... those dumps look pretty empty, is the garbage burnt or already sorted through?
    And for the info on recycling and composting in developing countries have you mentioned it to Walwrick? I'm sure he'd love to help!!!
    Great to hear from you! Oh and really nice job on that meeting with the women's association, pretty proud of being your friend right now. You really planned it well and sound super professional. thumbs up! xo