From desert dates to soap

The challenges of development in the Sahel

soapImagine what a difference it would make to a woman’s life if she were able to earn a little money of her own through the creation of a saleable product and then sell that product at a local market. That’s just what some Burkinabe villagers have been able to do: they have learned how to extract oil from desert dates and then use that oil to make soap.

Recent reports from APDC, World Neighbours Canada’s partner organization in Burkina Faso, have provided details about the project. In addition to the forest products initiatives such as the soap making, the villagers are pleased with the achievement of a local radio broadcast about forestry clearing laws and protection measures, improvement in agricultural yields through the use of green manure, and animal health improvements.

In spite of these positive advances, the pace of progress seems agonizingly slow. The reality is that for every step forward, there are slips backward and according to the APDC report, there is not yet sufficient dynamism and motivation among those who have been trained as village leaders. Women in particular face multiple challenges as they seek to change their roles in the community.

Despite the setbacks, the positives outweigh the negatives and APDC has been candid in its assessment of where progress is occurring and where there are still obstacles to overcome. In this difficult physical and economic environment, the road to development is long and arduous and requires patience and commitment.

Shea nut processing in Burkina Faso (Article from Wikepedia)

Vitellaria paradoxa (the shea tree) is extremely important in Burkina
Faso. Termed “women’s gold” by Burkinabé villagers, the nuts of shea
tree can be collected and processed by crushing and grinding to yield
shea butter, which is widely used in soap and in cosmetics as a
moisturizer, salve, or lotion. Shea butter is also edible and may be used
in food preparation; it is sometimes used in the manufacture of
chocolate. The bark of the tree is also used as an ingredient in
traditional medicines and the shell of nut is said to be able to repel
mosquitoes and is also said to protect existing trees. (Wikipedia Article)

Desert date oil technical sheet