International Development Week is from February 5 to 11, and the BCCIC (BC Council for International Cooperation) is holding a couple events in which we think our members might be interested.
On February 7 @ 12:00-1:30pm, a panel discussion called Fresh Food, Distressed Planet: Women’s Leadership, Food Security, Climate Justice & Peace and will feature three panellists from Cuso International, Oxfam South America, and Grandmothers Advocacy Network. The panellists will “ explore women’s lived realities and leadership in the intersecting areas of food security, gender equality, the climate crisis and peace in different regions of the world.”
On February 9th at 10-11:30am a webinar titled Inside & Out: In Defence of Indigenous Land Rights in Tanzania will feature two Tanzanian activists who are working to advance Indigenous Peoples’ rights and priorities.
An American international development organization called Groundswell International (with which we have many connections) has produced an inspiring set of films produced by youth in Burkina Faso, Honduras, Nepal and Ecuador. The films are modest and genuine, not slick and professional. They provide insights into the lives of rural people in each country, and what they are doing to grow more food. It is impressive that the films were made by amateur youth filmmakers.
Please take some time to watch these films. Seldom do we hear stories that come so directly from people in developing countries, without adornment.
Note that the films do not cover programs supported by World Neighbours Canada, but they do reflect the reality and experiences of the people we work with in Burkina Faso, Honduras and Nepal.
We are excited to share the recording of Field to Film: Youth Storyteller Film Festival. It was a truly uplifting event, and we wanted to offer you another chance to watch and to share with others.
Young people shared their stories, through their videos, about how they and their communities are creating healthy farming, food systems, and futures from the ground up. Odette (Burkina Faso), Gelder (Honduras), Champha (Nepal), and Lenin (Ecuador) joined to share perspectives on their work and what being a Youth Storyteller means to them.
We were thrilled (and a bit surprised) that we were able to overcome technical, language interpretation, and time zone constraints to create this space for young people’s voices.
Please donate today so that we can continue supporting young people to create and share ground up solutions to feed the world and regenerate land and communities.
By Bruce Petch, Executive Director (volunteer) with World Neighbours Canada
World Neighbours Canada is actively engaged with our local partner organization in Burkina Faso to help adapt their farming and other economic activities to cope with a changing climate. Thus, we were interested to learn about work done by Farm Radio International to hear directly from people in the country how they are affected by climate change and what ideas they have for adaptation.
Farm Radio International received input from thousands of people who called into local radio stations in Burkina Faso and Ethiopia. The slides below summarize what was heard. Although the area where we work in Burkina Faso was not included, the information seems relevant to us. We were pleased to see that the situation and potential solutions described by callers are similar to what we described in our recent proposal submitted to Global Affairs Canada on the theme of adaptation to climate change.
(These slides are from a webinar delivered by Farm Radio International. You can watch the full webinar on YouTube at https://youtu.be/iQlpZQstPjA).
On December 2nd at 12:00pm EST there will be a virtual Film Festival organized by Groundswell International which will feature the voices of Youth Storytellers from the three countries that World Neighbours supports through our partners. These films bring you examples of empowerment, transformation, and triumph.
Tickets are limited so sign up in advance. You can access tickets here. Tickets.
Together with APDC, our partner organization in Burkina Faso, World Neighbours Canada recently completed a 15 month experimental project with funding from FIT (Fund for Innovation and Transformation), an initiative based in Manitoba that is funded, in turn, by Global Affairs Canada.
Over the 15 month term, 110 women from our project villages participated in family based sheep fattening enterprises, in which the women were the leaders of their business, but were supported by other household members. One of the most interesting and innovative aspects of the project, was the women’s participation in the purchase and sale of the sheep.
Although APDC had supported women in the past in sheep-fattening, prior to this project the women had never been involved in the purchase or sale of the animals. In fact, through focus group discussions that were held midway through the project, a number of both women and men mentioned that women who participated in such activities were viewed quite negatively. One person remarked that, “A woman who does this (attends the cattle market) should be banished from the family, she is a rebellious, wicked, witchy, independent woman. She is a woman who has no respect for her husband, who has social difficulties.” On the other hand, some rare men positively appreciate a woman who sells and buys animals on her own and describe her as ‘courageous and a fighter’.”
However, with the extensive training that the women received from the veterinarian, these women felt they had the knowledge and skills to participate in the purchase and sale of their animals. Here is a sample of the women’s comments:
Kayaba: “I learned the process, I can’t pay alone but with my son I can. We were very, very tired, very, very tired. I know how expensive animals are, so I was very tired of walking around the market to find the right animals.”
Blandine – “It’s very very tiring, I even have headaches, it’s hard because the sun has hit us a lot, also the animals are very expensive. I chose my animals and negotiated the prices alone.”
Choosing good healthy animals is something the women are now confident with, but negotiating with marketers for a fair price continues to be challenging: “When customers see the women, they raise the price of the animals… When they see the women selling, they lower the prices too much, thinking that the women know nothing about animal prices” (woman from Gnianmanga). The women of Tambiga confirm this by suggesting that they get help from a man because “The traders at the market are thieves, swindlers. They lower the prices of the animals sold by the women too much.”
Despite these issues, men’s and women’s attitudes changed dramatically over the course of the project and by the end, the men were much more positive about their wives attending the cattle market, thanks in part to the gender sessions offered to the men, women and adolescents. “We appreciate all the women who are able to buy or sell their own animals because it is a proof that they are enlightened. This means that these women get along well with their husbands, these kinds of women are to be encouraged and congratulated because they will help their husbands a lot” (women from Tambiga village).
For the men, the support of APDC has been very beneficial. One man said, “Before, I could not consult my wife for decisions because she could not say anything good to me, but now we do everything together. The woman was like a slave in our families, but today everything has changed”. Another added that “I exchange with my wife before taking a decision. Today, we are aware that women have good ideas that can help in the family and even in the village.” According to the men, the situation has changed in favour of women partly because of their increased financial power. “If the woman has the financial means, her husband listens to her”.
The women have suggested further information sessions about how to conduct negotiations to buy and sell sheep. It is challenging for them, especially in light of the male-dominated process and the low literacy and numeracy skills of most women. Despite all the challenges, all of the 110 women who participated in the initiative continue to operate their sheep-fattening businesses.
After ten years, Vecinos Honduras will be leaving the Azabache region of Honduras at the end of 2023. World Neighbours has supported Vecinos Honduras’s work building capacity, teaching agroecological techniques, implementing water systems, and for six years, thanks to support from Global Affairs Canada, implementing a maternal child health project. Now that the communities are better equipped to organize and direct their own future it is time for Vecinos Honduras to shift to new regions. Before they leave, however, there is one last program that World Neighbours Canada will support.
One of the consequences of the holistic approach Vecinos Honduras takes with community development is that communities drive many of the activities. One activity that was very popular had to do with entrepreneurship. Migration is a major issue in Honduras with many of the young people leaving the country to look for work. This is particularly detrimental to smaller communities. In Azabache, community members wanted opportunities for their children so they would stay in the community.
Many workshops were conducted, and a number of cooperatives, and private businesses were created. Micro credit lending groups were also created to support local entrepreneurs. Many of the businesses were related to agriculture such as honey or egg production and snacks, yet others were skills based such as woodworking, and auto repairs. Vecinos Honduras provided guidance for establishing these businesses. Groundswell International also provided financial support to start the lending groups.
Now that Vecinos Honduras is leaving the area, they want to ensure that these businesses understand their legal and administrative responsibilities. World Neighbours Canada is supporting training sessions for these small credit groups to become official, legal entities that will continue to operate long after Vecinos Honduras leaves.
Workshops are also being held for groups and individuals in business administration such as bookkeeping, billing, receipts, loan management, and taxes. Vecinos Honduras wants to see these businesses succeed in order for these communities to retain their young people as well as to build resilience within the local community’s economy.
The following videos were created by Groundswell International and give a great glimpse into some of the participants and their businesses.
We have received some disconcerting news recently from our partner in Burkina Faso – APDC.
Last Saturday, in two separate locations, APDC staff encountered terrorists while travelling on local roads.
Diaboado, one of the APDC staff field workers was on his way to a training session with a consultant when they were stopped by a group of terrorists, likely armed. The two were not harmed, fortunately, but the terrorists took Diaboado’s motorcycle.
In another incident, while travelling to Bogande (to the north, another town where APDC has projects) the driver encountered another group of terrorists and was forced to give up the 4×4 he was driving – the only vehicle that APDc owns. Luckily he was not harmed either.
We have continued to hear of the growing number of terrorist attacks in Eastern Burkina Faso and according to Charles Tankoano, the Executive Director of APDC, these attacks have reduced the number and scope of community development organizations operating in the region. It seems that APDC is one of the few groups continuing with programming.
Despite these attacks, APDC is currently in the process of gathering data for the final report on the women’s sheep fattening enterprise project. Extra safety precautions are being put in place and extra days have been allotted for the data collection so that the interviewers can carefully plan when it is safe to visit the women.
We continue to receive communication on an almost daily basis and hope that the data gathering and other project activities will proceed without harm to those involved.
Charles’ final comment in his WhatsApp message, “There is no improvement in security in Burkina Faso. But, to date, they (the terrorists) have not done anything to our personnel. Only, our already insufficient means of travel are suddenly reduced. But we are grateful to God for having preserved our 2 colleagues”
“I will stop neglecting myself. I will work well to succeed in my sheep-fattening and have a lot of profit.” These goals were expressed by a woman from a village in rural Burkina Faso after she had participated in an innovative project set in motion by World Neighbours Canada and our local partner organization, APDC, with funding from the Fund for Innovation and Transformation (FIT). It is one of the many inspiring testimonies we have read as our FIT-funded project recently reached its halfway point! All FIT-funded projects test innovative solutions for advancing gender equality, and empowering women and girls. These projects also have the benefit of FIT’s ongoing support as they adapt to on-the-ground challenges.
The goal of our FIT-funded innovative project is to test a novel approach to strengthening rural women’s economic participation by helping them develop the ability to manage and maintain informal sheep-fattening businesses. Sheep-fattening is a relatively low risk way to earn income. It involves purchasing sheep, caring for them and feeding them to ensure they remain healthy and gain weight, and then later selling them for a higher price.
There are a series of barriers that prevent poor women in rural Burkina Faso from being able to manage and maintain a sheep-fattening business. For one, women often lack access to funds for purchasing sheep, and to the professional skills that are needed to organize their sheep-fattening activities as businesses that can generate profit in a sustainable way. They also struggle to balance competing household responsibilities with their sheep-fattening activities, and wonder how to go about enlisting their family’s support in that process. WNC’s FIT-funded project addresses all of these barriers. It provides rural women with the funds for the initial purchase of sheep, professional training sessions in topics like financial literacy and entrepreneurship, and the support women need to be able to go to the animal market.
Though our project has only reached its halfway point, we have already seen encouraging progress that points towards the success of the novel approach we are testing! Among the highlights of the project so far is the number of women who can identify the features of a healthy sheep to purchase, and who have the support of their household members in caring for their animals. This project has allowed many women to experience a number of firsts: for the first time in their lives thirty women were able to participate in the purchase of sheep at the local cattle market. Having never before observed this process they enjoyed learning how one negotiates the terms of a purchase, or identifies a desirable sheep.
Before our project began, few people in rural villages thought it was possible for women to improve their social status or to contribute to village development through their economic empowerment. But, at the midpoint of our project’s implementation, the majority of people now see both of these benefits –women’s improved social status, and women’s contribution to village development –as being tied to women’s economic empowerment! As we move towards the final stretch of our innovative project, we will continue to share the stories of rural women as they meet the challenges of learning and applying new professional skills and becoming active and insightful managers of small animal-fattening businesses.
To learn more about the Fund for Innovation and Transformation, please have a look at their website.
We have some very good news to share regarding new projects in Nepal. We have received a substantial grant from the Gay Lea Foundation, a foundation created by Gay Lea Foods (a leading Canadian co-operative owned by dairy farmers). The matching grant will enable us to undertake the building of 2-3 new piped water systems which will provide safe, accessible water to remote villages in Ramechhap district of Nepal.
We work in partnership with a local organization called Tamakoshi Sewa Samiti (TSS). When a village requests help from TSS in building a water system, the village is asked to form a committee and TSS requires that there be a minimum number of women on the committee. Planning and implementing of the work of bringing the water from a local spring into the village is done by this committee with help from TSS, which provides trained technicians to oversee the project.
Once in place, with a secure reservoir and taps within the village, the women and girls of the village (the traditional carriers of water) no longer have to carry water from some remote source. This makes a marked change in their health and well-being. There are other benefits stemming from the process of building their own system. Some of the younger villagers can learn skills such as mixing concrete, which can lead to employment. Women in the village have an increased say in the politics of the village and have more time to devote to other things such as gardening and marketing produce.
We would like to thank the Gay Lea Foundation for this opportunity to further our work. To find out more about the foundation go to https://www.gaylea.com/foundation
There have been dramatic political changes in Honduras and Burkina Faso. Honduras has elected its first woman president, Xiomara Castro with the centre-left Libre Party. In Burkina Faso, the elected president was forced out by the military last weekend. World Neighbours Canada supports rural development programs in both countries – we are watching closely to see how these changes could affect the people we work with.
Honduras is facing multiple crises, with one of the highest murder rates in the world and huge numbers of people attempting to migrate to the United States. Gangs associated with drugs are pervasive. According to news reports, the outgoing president is expected to be indicted by US prosecutors on drug trafficking conspiracy charges. Supporters hope that President Castro will lead positive changes in the country, including less crime, less poverty, and more rights for women. However, the challenges she faces are immense. Before her government was even in place, several newly elected members of Congress defected from Castro’s party and elected their own congressional leader.
The people of Burkina Faso have faced increased attacks from terrorist groups believed to be associated with al-Qaeda and ISIS, a spillover from a conflict that started in Mali more than ten years ago. Recently there have been public protests, expressing dissatisfaction with the government’s inability to restore security in the country. Then on 24 January 2022, the military forced the president to resign, citing the same concerns as expressed by protesters.
The local organizations that partner with World Neighbours Canada in Honduras and Burkina Faso are still functioning normally, and they are experienced in managing through crises, whether political turmoil or natural disasters. We are hoping that the changes in government in both countries will lead to better governance eventually, but at present there is much uncertainty.