Burkina Faso suffers from terrorist attacks

By Judy Gray

Despite the increasing unrest in Burkina Faso, our partners on the APDC team (local rural development organization) continue to work tirelessly to support those in our project villages who are eager to improve their food security and lives in general.

The APDC Staff

This is the latest message from Charles Tankoano, APDC coordinator: “The information you have (about the possible kidnapping) is true. But everyone continues to work in the country. Moreover, the attacks are targeted and we are not very afraid to go to the project area to work. At the moment we are all well and we still do not feel enough fear to prevent us from going to the project area. Thank you very much; we understand your concerns. But we trust God.”

World Neighbours Canada has been greatly saddened by the growing insecurity in Burkina Faso due to terrorist attacks. The most recent incident involves Canadian Edith Blais, who, along with her Italian companion, has not been heard from since mid-December (they were travelling in a relatively safe part of the country). The Canadian government is attempting to learn more of the pair’s whereabouts but, to date no information has emerged (see BBC and CBC News articles for more details).

In addition to this possible kidnapping, there have been many attacks by suspected jihadists, especially in the north and east part of the country. It is evident that the attacks are not limited to Westerners, and in fact Burkinabé citizens are being targeted in greater numbers. Namoungou, one of the villages that APDC is working with, sustained an attack in December. Charles told us “The village was attacked. The jihadists hit several people and one child died. But we continue the activities because the calm has returned. Also security forces stormed the area killing 6 attackers. We cannot give up work because this is happening everywhere and the people of Burkina Faso cannot give up their activities because of this. “

According to GardaWorld, “Terrorism has become an increasingly severe security threat in Burkina Faso since 2015. Educational institutions, local government officials, and security forces are specifically targeted. Initially concentrated in the Sahel region, attacks have spread to other regions, including eastern Burkina Faso (Est region) which is also known for high crime rates. Attacks are usually attributed to Ansarul Islam and other groups affiliated with Al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). According to an official account released in mid-September, jihadist attacks have killed at least 118 people since 2015; at least 22 attacks were recorded in the Est region since February 2018.” ( for full article see: https://www.garda.com/crisis24/news-alerts/181746/burkina-faso-attack-against-security-patrol-in-est-region-dec-3)

We, of World Neighbours Canada, are hoping that the political climate in Burkina Faso improves and stabilizes so that we will again be able to visit our project villages and communicate directly with APDC staff.

Reflecting on progress in Maternal-Child Health

The Board of Directors of World Neighbours Canada met recently in West Kelowna for their Annual General Meeting. Board members responsible for communication with each of our partner NGOs – in Honduras, Burkina Faso and Nepal – provided an update on what has been achieved during the past twelve months. Highlighted here is only ONE of the achievements of the past year for each country. During the coming weeks, we will publish more in-depth articles about the activities that have taken place in each country.

Our matching grant from Global Affairs Canada is allowing us to provide much more monetary support to these grassroots organizations. Without our donors, it would not be possible for World Neighbours Canada to apply for such grants. The directors of WNC and our partner NGOs – Vecinos Honduras, TSS (Nepal) and APDC (Burkina Faso) extend a heartfelt thank you for the on-going support. Please remember our projects and our relationships are long-term and support locally appropriate initiatives. It is truly a model of participatory development.

Burkina Faso – During the past year, close to 5000 villagers have attended sensitization and/or information sessions on family planning, malnutrition, the importance of vaccinations, nutrition (how to prepare healthier, more balanced meals with local produce ) and gender equality.

Nepal – Over the past two years, TSS has supported villagers with the installation of 4012 toilets in homes in villages in Ramechhap District. This has been linked to a nation-wide campaign to encourage everyone to use proper toilets.

Honduras – The health initiative of monitoring young children for growth by measuring body weight has continued and expanded over the past year and positive results are being observed. Mothers are given advice and support in raising healthy, well-nourished children.


The Strength of World Neighbours Canada – Enduring Partnerships and Mutual Respect

Mother and her children at health education session. Honduras

By Bruce Petch

At World Neighbours Canada we are sometimes asked what makes us unique. There are many charities that support people in developing countries; what does World Neighbours Canada do differently?

The answer is multi-faceted. There are many aspects of our organization that inspire loyalty among our donors – we are run by volunteers, have very low overhead, and use modest fundraising approaches. The attribute of World Neighbours Canada that we hold closest to our hearts is enduring partnerships. These partnerships occur at multiple levels – between the local organizations we support and the rural people they serve; between us and the local organizations; and between World Neighbours Canada donors and its board and volunteers.

The emphasis on partnerships is rooted deep. When World Neighbors was founded in the U.S. in the 1950s, it was ahead of its time in recognizing that poor people in developing countries deserved respect. World Neighbors founders embraced the United Nations statement acknowledging the “inherent dignity” of all people.

Community Meeting – Nepal

World Neighbors evolved into an unusual organization, focusing on long-term partnerships and outcomes when many organizations worked with only a one- or two-year project term in mind. Their minimal expatriate staff – called Area Representatives – often held their positions for more than ten years, sometimes more than twenty, which was remarkable in a field where terms of more than two years were uncommon. The essence of their work was building long-term partnerships with local organizations and communities, growing leadership capacity and fostering knowledge-based development.

Local NGO APDC leading workshop in Burkina Faso

The founders of World Neighbours Canada were inspired by the commitment and effectiveness of the World Neighbors family of organizations, and created a Canadian group to support the international network. Since its inception, World Neighbours Canada has worked to establish enduring partnerships with local organizations. We have supported Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti in Nepal and Vecinos Honduras (and its predecessors) since 1989, and APDC in Burkina Faso since 2006.

Finished Tap No. 6. – Nepal

Each of these organizations takes a different approach in working with local communities. Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti is committed to improving the lives of people in the district of Ramechhap. They support the building of water systems and latrines in different villages each year, and provide technical back-up for as long as is needed (nearly all of the water systems installed with TSS support continue to operate; in one or two locations, the water source has become intermittent). Vecinos Honduras takes a holistic approach to community development, gradually building local capacity for continuous improvement in agriculture and health. Typically, after 5-6 years they phase out intensive support, and instead provide advice to local committees or cooperatives. APDC similarly engages in a wide range of activities with villages, and shifts emphasis as local leadership takes on more responsibility.

Community members are taught how to test and treat for malnutrition.

Coupled with the theme of enduring partnerships is mutual respect. We respect the abilities and insights of our local partner organizations. They are led by some of the brightest and most committed people in their respective countries. Furthermore, we recognize that people who are materially poor are not bereft of ideas and ingenuity. We have the greatest respect for their ability to survive under extraordinarily difficult conditions, and to improve the lives of their families when given the opportunity and the knowledge to harness clean water, grow more crops, and raise healthier children.

This plantain harvest will help feed the family.

Au Revoir Charles!

World Neighbours Canada hosted Charles Tankoano, Executive Director of the NGO APDC (Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés) – our partner NGO in Burkina Faso, from March 8-17. In that time he traveled with one of our Directors, Judy Gray and her husband Peter, from Kamloops to Osoyoos, and then on to Vancouver. During this time he gave 17 presentations, to roughly 450 people, in 8 days. He spoke to elementary, secondary and university students (some in English and some in French) as well as several presentations to the public.

He was able to conduct a video conference with GAC staff in Ottawa (thanks to facilities and support provided by the BC Council for International Cooperation). Furthermore, BCCIC staff conducted an in-depth interview with Charles and an article about him and the work of APDC will appear soon in the BCCIC newsletter.

We feel that the tour was hugely successful. Charles was deeply honoured to be invited to come to Canada and share the activities of APDC. Conversely, all the groups that Charles presented to were surprised by the number of activities APDC is undertaking and felt they learned a considerable amount through the presentations about the work that GAC and WNC are supporting in a little known and extremely poor country in West Africa, namely Burkina Faso.

A special thank you goes to Judy and Peter who not only played host but helped with the presentations. Judy acted as translator, as Charles only speaks French, for many of the presentations and interviews, and Peter ran the technical side of the presentation making sure the projector and slide shows worked to compliment the talk.

Despite the exhausting pace, and that there was little time to recover from jetlag, we hope that Charles enjoyed his visit to Canada. Despite thinking it was very cold here he did have fantastic sunny days for traveling and a short tour around Stanley Park. He even had a bit of time for a little shopping!

Charles Tankoano’s recent visit was made possible through a World Neighbours Canada Society grant from Global Affairs Canada under the Maternal Newborn Child Health initiative.


Burkina Faso Update – APDC members safe

The APDC Staff

We are relieved to hear that our APDC affiliates and their families are safe after the terrorist attack in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, March 2nd.

Yesterday, a Mali-based al Qaeda affiliate, Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Obviously, tensions are high in Burkina Faso and we, in Canada, must wait to see how things play out.

Burkina Faso is one of the twentieth poorest countries in the world. Life expectancy for men is 59 years and women 61. There are large gold deposits in the country but the majority of the population is engaged in agriculture. It is in these subsistence communities that APDC does their work.

For more information on the claims by JNIM see https://www.reuters.com/article/us-burkina-security/al-qaeda-affiliate-claims-responsibility-for-burkina-faso-attacks-idUSKCN1GF0GS

For a brief summary of Burkina Faso see http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13072774

A Visitor from Burkina Faso

Charles Tankoano

World Neighbours Canada is very excited to announce that Charles Tankoano, Executive Director of the NGO APDC (Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés) – our partner NGO in Burkina Faso, will be in British Columbia this March and available to talk to schools, donors, and community groups about their work.

This will be the first time that World Neighbours has hosted a project partner from Burkina Faso. Mr. Tankoano speaks French but WNC members Judy and Peter Gray will be attending to assist with translation.

Mr. Tankoano will be traveling from Kamloops to Osoyoos and then on to Vancouver between March 12-17. This will be a great opportunity to hear about the successes and challenges of community development in rural Eastern Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in West Africa, north of Ghana.  Called “Upper Volta” in colonial times, the country lies in the savanna and Sahel zones, the wide band of semi-arid grasslands with scattered trees that separates the Sahara from the forested areas to the south. World Neighbours Canada supports the burkinabé NGO, APDC, and it is this organization that organizes and implements the project activities.

APDC Staff

APDC has experienced great success by using the empowerment of women as a starting point for community development.  This begins with motivation and training of women in maternal health and child nutrition.  In addition, APDC encourages the women to participate in State organized training sessions in literacy and numeracy.  Women are encouraged to form savings and credit groups, and use or borrow from these funds to engage in income generation activities. Villagers are now growing more vegetables and learning how to care for livestock such as goats and sheep. Since 2008, the program has slowly expanded and now includes 18 villages in the Fada region.

Currently, funding for the activities is being provided, in large part, by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) as part of the Canadian government’s initiatives for improved Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in developing countries. These initiatives will contribute to the reduction of mortality and morbidity, especially in mothers and infants, and also to improving nutrition and development of young children. The current funding grant from GAC covers the period March 2016 to the end of March 2020.

To arrange for Mr. Tankoano to talk to your organization please contact Judy Gray by email at peterjudy1352@gmail.com.

What does Canada’s new International Feminist Policy mean to World Neighbours?

By Gabriel Newman

The Canadian Government has recently changed its international aid policy to focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. In fact, it is the first country in the world to come out with a Feminist International Aid Policy. Previously, the focus was directed to specific countries but now with a new government there is a change of direction. The Executive Summary for the Policy states:

“The last three decades have seen dramatic reductions in global poverty, but not everyone has benefited equally. Hundreds of millions of people, especially women and girls, are still poor, have unequal access to resources and opportunities, and face major risks of violent conflict, climate and environmental hazards, and/or economic and political insecurity. By eliminating barriers to equality and helping to create better opportunities, women and girls can be powerful agents of change and improve their own lives and those of their families, communities and countries. This is a powerful way to reduce poverty for everyone.”

We, at World Neighbours, applaud these efforts as we have seen first hand the effect of systemic sexism on communities. These funding policies mean that should we wish to qualify for funding from Global Affairs Canada we need to make sure we meet all the criteria laid out in the new Feminist International Assistance Policy. This is easier said than done. While we have always endeavoured to encourage projects that promote gender equality within communities there are many barriers to meet these new criteria.  Some of these barriers are internal, as they will force us on the Board to rethink how we approach each project. But perhaps the largest barrier lies within our partnering organizations because this is a dramatic shift of thinking and at odds with some traditional cultural norms. Supporting and empowering women in communities is certainly supported by our partner organizations but the process and expectations may not align as closely as we would like. The Policy not only wants to see certain results, it wants the entire process of aid to embody the policy objectives.

Luckily, we have some time to work with our partner organizations and provide training, if needed, to bring them up to speed before we need to apply for project funding. There are also numerous opportunities, such as webinars and training sessions, to help bring us, on the Board, up to speed on these expectations.

Admittedly, this author is definitely trying to figure out what all of this means. I will let you know as things progress. If you want to read the entire policy, check out Canada’s Feminist International Aid Policy.

Feeding a village -visiting Burkina Faso

The following is an account by Judy Gray following her visit of APDC projects in Burkino Faso. APDC is funded by World Neighbours Canada.

It’s 8AM and we are underway – off this morning, first to Gbersaaga, to view the rice fields being prepared so they can be planted this June and then on to Ganyhela – a new village where we’ll observe an information session on nutrition, in concert with a cooking demonstration and meal sharing. We are familiar with the road that eventually will reach Niger:  the potholes, the donkey carts, the apparently dead but really just dormant trees lining the highway, the villagers on bicycles, the goats crossing the road and more – all magically misty due to the dust in the air – and know that we’ll reach Gbersaaga in about thirty minutes. Time to reflect on what we’re seeing, but not relax totally – who can do that when the chauffeur must slow and swerve dramatically every few minutes to avoid those deep pits! And then – suddenly we’ve arrived: off in the distance through the ghostly trees, we spy the furrows in the flat landscape and we are driving across red dirt to the “lowland” – though it looks just as flat as the land around it to me – to the fields being prepared for rice planting.

            We arrived before 9AM and already there were about 25 villagers hard at work; really, not surprising as the sun’s heat was evident the moment we stepped from the truck. Hard, rock hard “soil” is slowly and mercilessly being chipped into smaller chunks in order to prepare partitions – or small “walls” that will keep the water inside the enclosure once the rice is planted. To begin with, the entire area of 3 hectares is being “fenced in” with these walls or “diguettes” as they are called; and after that, the bas-fond rice field will be divided into much smaller individualized plots, with a wall between each section. Sweat pours off the villagers as they swing a pick axe high into the air, before bringing it down into this parched and hardened “soil”. As the pick meets the soil, the dust floats up and the land is broken into a few chunks. Repeat, repeat, repeat – same spot – several times, in order to break the ground into small enough chunks that can then be bashed with a shovel and the chunks piled by hand to create an 18 inch high, 20 inch wide wall – the work reminds me of my childhood when I’d build a moat around a sand castle! More than twice that energy is required to achieve this result! .The villagers have split up into small groups of about 8 and each group is working on one of the individual diguettes. And it is certainly not just men who are out toiling in the heat of sun: young women, women with babes on their back, and elders – as one person tires, another takes over; while still others work behind placing the chunks into the correct spots to produce a wall that will trap that water once the rains begin. A sense of urgency is present – the walls must be built before the rainy season which will arrive, hopefully by late May; and between early March and May, the days will get hotter and hotter as the temperatures will rise eventually to near 50C!

We learned that the three hectare bas-fond belongs to one family of Gbersaaga, and while that family will be given several of the individual parcels, the remainder will be allocated to 100 families – all of whom will help, and have helped with this back-breaking preparatory work. Once the work is completed and all the diguettes have been constructed, someone from State agriculture department will come to the village and assign the parcels – the village leadership committee will provide information about those who should receive a parcel with priority given to the poorest households in the community and often women, with no husband, but women who are able to work that land. We also learned that one parcel of land ( about 20 metres square) will yield about 100 kg of rice. A small start, but one more way to increase food security and diversify a family’s diet.

            The rice field observation completed, we were back in the truck and on the highway for another 15 minutes to reach the village of Ganyhela. This village joined the project just over a year ago, and in spite of limited duration of this village’s involvement, the villagers seem to have wholeheartedly embraced their inclusion in the APDC project. About 80 women, young children and babes were already gathered under the ubiquitous “big shade tree” – we always meet under a tree, as the temperature is probably almost ten degrees lower than the mad dogs and Englishmen full sun temperature. Food preparations had begun  around 7AM, with the guidance of the two APDC field workers, Hortense and Diaboado. It takes time to gather enough wood, set a fire, and get the enormous cauldron and the required quantity of water heated Two “dishes”  are being prepared today, as usual – one, a bouillie or porridge for children between the ages of 6 and 11 months – their introduction to “solid” food and then a “repas solide” or stew, for everyone else: toddlers and young children, pregnant and nursing mothers ( virtually every female in the group! ). Emphasis is placed on including a food from each of the important food groups: a cereal, a protein, and a fruit or vegetable – and explained to the villagers as “an element for energy, an element for growth, and one to provide needed vitamins”. Once the preparation of the two meals is well underway, and the grain ingredient needs time to simmer, the women gather to listen to the instructional part of the demonstration: Diaboado explains the reason and importance for each food group and , with the aid of very primitive visuals, shows examples of which local foods are part of each food group and may be used in a “meal” preparation. One must remember that at least 80% of these women are illiterate, and must absorb and retain this information orally; no mean feat for women who have never had any formal schooling and another reason for repeating the sessions more than once. Today’s bouillie includes rice (the cereal), ground nuts (ground peanuts), dried powdered fish, and niebe ( navy beans ) – (the protein), and tamarind (the fruit ) while the “repas solide” or stew includes tomatoes, onions, chopped cabbage and eggplant (vitamins), powdered dried fish and niebe (protein) and rice (grain) along with a handful of salt. This meal’s preparation was multi- stepped: first the chopped tomatoes, onions, and cabbage were gently fried and put aside;  then water was added along with big chunks of aubergine and cabbage – these were cooked until soft and removed also; next the chopped fried vegetables and uncooked rice and navy beans along with lots of water were cooked and simmered until the rice and beans softened. During the cooking time, the information session with questions took place. Finally it’s time to eat: more women and children drift in and the bowls are placed on the ground. The bouillie for the very young served is served first and time allowed for mothers to help the babes mouth the thick soup – time needed for the bouillie to cool as it’s still very hot and a few cries escape in the beginning! Fingers dipped in our communal bowl as we must try everything too, and after I’ve sampled the soup, I’m off to grab photos of the babes – many licking the soup from their mum’s fingers. I noticed a number of children older than 11 months who are also sampling the bouillie; seated on the ground, finger  dipped repeatedly into a small plastic bowl and then licked with gusto as the soup is enjoyed.

I forgot to say that handwashing hygiene is also part of the session and large pans of water with plenty of soap are available and children and mums are wash hands well before eating.

The bouillie largely finished, it’s time for the repas solide to be served. A flurry of activity as each woman places her bowl on the ground beside the huge cauldron: one woman serves the rice-niebe mixture and then places a couple of chunks of the cooked cabbage and aubergine into the bowl. It’s suddenly quiet under the big tree as all are sampling and enjoying the food. WE eat from the large bowl provided – one bowl for the six of us – hoping and praying as I eat that any vicious bugs will have been killed during the cooking and acknowledging that this is, indeed, very tasty!!! Time is taken to enjoy the food – no-one rushes off back home; bellies replete the women continue to chat, help a toddler eat or nurse a baby once again. As I again wander around the assembled groups, I notice that the huge cauldron of stew and the one of bouillie are being scarped within an inch of their lives – not a scrap of food remains, and one woman is watching carefully to make sure no-one returns for a second serving! There is really just enough for each person to have only one!

We witnessed this instructional session and accompanying food preparation in three different villages over the course of our visit: each time different foods were used, but always attention paid to the inclusion of a food from each group, with emphasis on the use of locally available items! Probably the most interesting and inspiring sessions we witnessed during our stay in Fada.

Presenting Diaboado Oboulbiga; Burkina Faso APDC “Animateur”

Profile and photos by Judy Gray

Diaboado on the way to a village.

Diaboado is an “animateur” or field worker with APDC. He began his work with APDC in March of 2016, after the World Neighbours Canada grant with the Canadian government was signed. Prior to that time, he was employed by other NGOs in the Fada area, mentoring and leading workshops for villagers on the topic of nutrition and healthy eating.

Diaboado was born in 1975 and is married and has two children, both girls. He attended both elementary and high school and continued his education until he attained his high school diploma. Diaboado has completed a literacy course for the local language of Gourmanché;

Diaboado with the villagers

and has also taken training on the topics of soil and water conservation, environmentally appropriate agricultural techniques, nutrition and healthy food preparation, and on becoming an effective mentor and leader during community sensitization sessions. He has also participated in carrying out surveys with villagers to gather information on their understanding, attitude and practices around the topic of nutrition.

Diaboado with the food chart

While my husband and I were in Burkina Faso this past March, we were lucky to attend several village sessions with a focus on nutrition and watch Diaboado provide an explanation of the food groups and how to include an ingredient from each during meal preparation. He has a calm and quiet manner, but is comfortable and positive in his interactions with the villagers. Merci, Diaboada, for your involvement with APDC!

Presenting Tambiliano Hortense Lompo; Burkina Faso APDC employee – field worker, and health care leader

profile and photos by Judy Gray

 Hortense has worked as a field worker for APDC for the past year and a half. She recently completed the two year Government Health Care program at the local college and could work as a Health Care worker in one of the regional Centres de Santé but has chosen instead to work for APDC, providing in-service sessions to villagers on the topics of family planning, pre-natal and post-natal care for women, women’s rights as well as assisting with the food preparation demonstrations.

Hortense is 37 years old; is married and has four children ( one boy and three girls ) who range in age from 6 years to 16 years. All of her children attend school, which is a challenge as the cost of schooling is a deterrent for many. During the years 2000 – 2002, Hortense lived in Ouagadougou and worked in a Mission with a group of Catholic Sisters. There she learned about gardening, and cooking as well as learning how to sew. She now spends much of her time looking after her family, but also likes to read during any leisure time she may have.

During our visits to the project villages, we had a number of opportunities to watch Hortense interact with village men and women and it was clear that she has established a strong bond with the villagers and is well-respected by them. Hortense loves her job and enjoys working with the villagers. Her smile is warm, sincere and endearing! I feel that APDC is lucky to have Hortense as part of its team. It is thanks, in part, to World Neighbours Canada’s current Maternal Infant Child Health grant from the Canadian government, that APDC was able to hire an additional field worker, Hortense, to assist with implementing the programs.