How are Gender and Environment Connected? Look to Grassroots work in Burkina Faso

Written by Diane Connors, BC Council for Global Cooperation

Interview with Charles Tankoano, Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés and Judy Gray, World Neighbours Canada Director

Charles Tankoano had come a long way when he walked out of the chill Vancouver air and into the BCCIC office. “He hasn’t taken off his jacket since his arrival,” Judy Gray chuckled as the small group settled into their chairs. Charles had arrived from Burkina Faso, a small country in West Africa, earlier in the week. His visit to British Columbia was a whirlwind of presentations with schools, community groups, and donors of World Neighbours Canada, which, thanks to funding from Global Affairs Canada, is the partner organization that brought him over and supports his work in Burkina Faso.

Charles spoke only French, requiring Judy to translate for those who did not know the language. The group, consisting of Charles and 3 members of World Neighbours Canada, had come to BCCIC to use the teleconference system to hold a call with their project manager from Global Affairs Canada and a GAC International Development officer who will be travelling to Burkina Faso in the near future. As the call started up and the inevitable technical issues were mitigated, a photo slideshow appeared on the screen while Charles explained the work being done in 18 rural villages. The images showed children receiving medical care, people eating together, and people working with the flat, dry land in the Fada region of the eastern part of the country. This call was a valuable connection – giving voice to Charles to share the challenges and successes of community development, and strengthening the relationship between Global Affairs and a small Canadian development organization that receives project funding.

After the conference, we sat and talked a while about the organization Charles leads, called Association d’Appui à la Promotion du Développement durable des Communautés, or APDC for short. Charles explained that the organization began in 2002, with the vision of promoting sustainable and equitable development in poor and marginalized communities in Eastern Burkina Faso through capacity building of individuals and villages. The areas of focus for the projects include: food security, community health, female leadership and gender issues, environmental protection, drinking water supply, and adult literacy. Drinking water and adult literacy are addressed by APDC despite not having funding for these projects, as they realize that these two areas are critical to long term improvements.

As Charles spoke it was clear that the areas of focus were all linked – working in one area will often strengthen another. APDC’s gender work is particularly compelling, and some of the earliest initiatives addressed the connection between women and the land. At the village level, APDC promoted the idea that women have the right to work a parcel of land, and have access to that plot year after year, so that she might improve the soil and benefit from the productivity. This was done in line with the national government making policy changes and providing women access to land. APDC also reinforced the notion that when men and women work together, their lives and their children’s lives are better. This is mostly achieved through information sessions with men, giving examples and working through questions that reveal truths and inequalities. Through this work the men gradually come to new understandings such as the fact that women should not be doing hard labour when they are in late stages of pregnancy, and that household work should be shared between a husband and wife. Cultural changes like these are APDC’s goal, but there is still much work to be done in this area for these ideas to be accepted by the majority of villagers.

“I managed to get this great picture,” Judy said as she turned her laptop, showing a photo of a man and woman, side by side with the woman’s arm around her husband’s side. “Charles explained that 10 years ago, public demonstration of any kind of affection would not be visible or accepted. It’s a sign of progress.” Part of this progress has been enabled directly through Global Affairs Canada funding, as a Gender Consultant (local Burkinese professional) has been hired to evaluate APDC’s current gender initiatives and provide suggestions for enhancing this work. The resulting recommendations have been incorporated into project programming where possible. The improvement in gender equality often filters into benefits in other areas: improved supports for pregnant women, improved nutrition for children and pregnant women, improved environmental practices and improvements in health care. It also helps to develop a sense of community, which is an underlying foundational goal of APDC projects.

Charles explained that he gained experience in development work through a few different paths. He started out studying agriculture and agronomy in the nearby countries of Ivory Coast and Niger, and he began working with the Burkina Faso government, teaching farmers how to improve soil conservation. Over time he began to find the bureaucracy of the government frustrating, and wanted more freedom to work directly on strengthening community capacity. He worked for several NGOs; in particular an NGO in Senegal, where he solidified his understanding of a participatory philosophy in development. Then, he formed his own organization to address the needs of people in his home country of Burkina Faso. When asked why he pursued such challenging work he simply explained that he had a desire to work with people who are marginalized, taking into account their own culture and respecting their values.

When looking at the communities in the context of the future, the topic of climate change came up. One of the reasons for the impoverishment of the region is that the land is difficult to make productive due to less and less rain falling every year. Charles explained that though the people are mostly illiterate and uneducated, they don’t need to be told what climate change is. Living near the desert, it is already obvious that climate change has arrived: now there is only 3 months of rain per year on average, versus the 6 months of rain that could be expected in the past. The progression of climate change requires more tools for communities in these hard hit areas to be able to mitigate the effects of a warmer world – Charles explained that “the people of Eastern Burkina Faso are forgotten by the government and are being left further and further behind. More resources will be needed to mitigate the effects of climate change.” APDC is doing its best to address these challenges with simple but effective techniques, such as getting the right seeds to withstand dry conditions, creating and using compost, keeping trees to prevent erosion, and building “stone ribbons” along the fields to allow the water to soak into the soil more. These measures have already helped people to increase yields by as much as 50%.

Though the challenges are still great, and change is slow, Charles has seen significant improvements for people in the region over the years. With the help of APDC, people have learned to vary production with diverse activities and better techniques, which has improved nutrition, community resilience, and environmental stewardship. More children are getting vaccinated, and women’s health is improving, especially as attitudes toward family planning shift. The improved relationship between men and women has resulted in building up the confidence of women, which is visible when women speak at meetings and there is an expectation that they will be listened to. These things together create a more hopeful picture for Burkina Faso, though it is one of the lowest listed countries on the UN Human Development Index. Charles explains that he is always in a state of self reflection, asking whether he is doing the right things, and providing the right support. He says the next project is to look at new strategies and solutions for Burkina Faso in a changing world, to push further and go the next step.

 

World Neighbours Canada is a member of the BC Council for Global Cooperation, which is a network of global development organizations based in British Columbia, working toward sustainable development both at home and around the world.

Introducing Ides Onelba Bonilla – Honduras

The following is part of our series featuring the community participants in the various programs we support. It is through their hard, voluntary, work that leads to sustainable change in their community.

The following was written by Vecinos Honduras and translated by Mary Doyle.

Ides Onelba Bonilla

Onelba is a 34 year old woman who lives in the community of Casas Nuevas where she is dedicated to household activities.

Since 2010 she has worked in community development initiating participation with World Vision in another community. In 2015 she moved to Casas Nuevas where she learned about the work of Vecinos Honduras. She began to participate in community meetings involved with training in basic sanitation issues, child growth and development, food preparation and improved stoves. In 2016 she became involved in child welfare as a volunteer health monitor and has been helping children in the community ever since.

Onelba studied at school until grade nine and she enjoys participating in community meetings and training sessions to learn and experience new topics of interest.

 

Healthy Homes in Honduras

Editor’s note: A condition of our grant from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) is that an in-depth report must be delivered semi-annually. It is a Herculean task to compile all the data from these diverse projects. However, for those of us not tasked with this duty, the reports give us great insight into how complicated, varied and impressive these projects are. The following is from a recent report encompassing July 1, 2017 to December 2017, and comes in under the title “Healthy home environments and improvement” as it pertains to the Honduras projects. It is one page within sixty but gives a sense of how much is being accomplished, but also some of the challenges along the way.

Coordination was made with the Ministry of Health of the municipality of Danlí (with the coordinator of the Environmental Unit) and a study was carried out to determine the technical feasibility and environmental impact of the construction of sealed hygienic toilets in the communities of Boneton and Buena Esperanza. With this coordination, a technical report was produced, which describes that the realization of the toilet project is considered technically and environmentally feasible since it will not contaminate aquifers, and it will help to ensure the reduction of diseases such as hepatitis, diarrhea and others (see details in the Construction Annex of the annual report for 2016-17).

The toilet construction was approved by GAC. During the reporting period, using project funds and the contribution of families themselves, 31 household latrines were built: 9 in Boneton and 22 in Buena Esperanza. Before building the latrines, beneficiaries received training on their use and management.

Five training events were conducted to raise awareness on the benefits of using improved stoves. This technology reduces indoor smoke pollution from burning of wood fuel, firewood consumption, and consequently respiratory problems. In each training event an improved stove was built. The events were developed in the communities of El Picacho, Los Encuentros, San Jose, Casas Nuevas, and Llanitos Verdes; and 58 people participated (45 women and 13 men). In addition to the 5 stoves that were made in the trainings, 20 more stoves were built. The families built the 20 stoves with an approach called mano vuelta, which consists of all the participants collaborating in the construction of 20 stoves until they finish with the last one (“I help you help me”).

Three training sessions on leishmaniasis and leptospirosis prevention were conducted; 21 women, members of health committees, attended the sessions. The women implemented the preventive practices at their homes and each shared the practices with four families of their communities. As a result, four (4) families installed nylon (plastic) on their roofs; two (2) families build a fence around the house to keep animals outside the house; and two (2) families build enclosures for domestic animals.

The Secretary of Health through the HU carried out diagnostic tests to detect Leishmania parasites in the community of Llanitos Verdes; 15 people tested positive and received treatment. The occurrence of the disease was the reason for developing the training. Participants said they didn’t have any knowledge about the disease; nevertheless a group commented they still didn’t believe it exists, incongruously these group had infected patients at home.

Health committees conducted nine cleaning campaigns in nine communities: Matasano, Guanacastillo, Jocotal, Brasilar, Quebrachal, Lajas Blancas, El Rincon, Mal Paso and Torrecillas. The cleaning campaigns pick up trash and litter and remove standing water that could provide mosquito breeding habitat.

In Las Guarumas Program, a six-month training course on participatory diagnosis and project design, management, implementation, and evaluation was conducted. Six (6) health committees of the communities of Las Labranzas, Guanacastillo, Lajas Blancas, El Jocotal, Quebrachal, and El Rincon participated in the course; six men and 28 women. As training output, participants prepared project profiles for a community latrinization project because only 46% of 300 families have latrines in good condition. This training strengthened the institutional capacities of the health committees, providing them the tools to conduct a health needs assessment.

Introducing Community Leader Hancys Yadira Martinez – Honduras

The following is part of our series featuring the community participants in the various programs we support. It is through their hard, voluntary, work that leads to sustainable change in their community.

The following was written by Vecinos Honduras and translated by Mary Doyle.

Hancys Yadira Martinez

Hancys is a 28 year old woman who is recognized as one of the dedicated leaders in her community of Casas Neuvas where she participates in domestic and agricultural activities.

Since 2010 she has collaborated in community development activities.  In 2013 she learned about the work of Vecinos Honduras and began volunteering as a health instructor.

The following year she collaborated with other institutions such as World Vision where she promoted ideas such as gender equality, leadership, health and human rights, and AIN-C (Atención Integral a la Niñez en la Comunidad)  Comprehensive Care for Children in the Community (AIN-C).

Hancys has studied to the ninth grade and she works to promote children living in healthy conditions where they can achieve good development and growth.

She has held positions in community organizations such as parent societies and health committees.

Introducing Community Leader Eiby Milesi Maldonado – Honduras

The following is part of our series featuring the community participants in the various programs we support. It is through their hard, voluntary, work that leads to sustainable change in their community.

Eiby Milesi Maldonado

Milesi is a 29 year old leader in the community of Casas Nuevas, Honduras, where she takes part in domestic activities and, together with her husband, in agricultural activities.

In 2013 she learned of the work of Vecinos Honduras and the following year she began training in their methodology. In 2015 she trained in basic sanitation processes, improved stoves, infant nutrition, managing domestic animals, and responsible food preparation and consumption. In 2016 she volunteered in her community as a mother mentor where she helped children achieve adequate development and growth. She studied up to the seventh grade and she likes to collaborate with her neighbours to develop her community.

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.

Merci!

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

Deadly Attack in Burkina Faso Today

We have learned that there was a deadly attack in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, today in which eight gunmen and eight security were killed and over 80 people injured, including civilians. The attacks were aimed at the French Embassy and the military HQ.

Reports suggest that this was a terrorist attack aimed at retaliating against France’s increased effort to combat terrorism in the regions. Another reports suggests it might have been carried out by disgruntled members of the military.

We are waiting to hear from our partners at APDC to ensure they, and their families have not been affected. We will also have to wait and see if this will affect Charles Tankoano’s trip to BC in a couple weeks.

Right now there is too much uncertainty but if you would like more details check out the following articles (Ouest-France is in French).

BBC

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-43257453

Ouest-France

https://www.ouest-france.fr/monde/burkina-faso/burkina-faso-tirs-dans-le-centre-de-ouagadougou-pres-de-l-ambassade-de-france-5599045

NY Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/world/africa/burkina-faso-embassy-attack.html

Honduras Visit 2017

“Only God and Vecinos Honduras visits these villages.” (Edwin Escoto, Vecinos Honduras Program Coordinator.)

“Only God and Vecinos Honduras visits these villages,” says Edwin Escoto, with a smile and a glance in the rearview mirror as he drives.

He is the Vecinos Honduras Program Coordinator, and at this point in the journey, I am starting to believe him.

It is October, and we are in a Toyota 4×4 in the mountains of Honduras. The road is becoming more rough, winding and washed out as we climb.

I am here in an official capacity as a board member of World Neighbours Canada, to monitor the Maternal and Child Health Project funded by Global Affairs Canada, in partnership with our private donors.

Vera Radyo and Magda Lanuza from the Kenoli Foundation are also in the truck. They partner on these projects and we’ve coordinated the visit.

Canadian recreational 4x4ing did little to prepare me for the realities of Honduran backcountry driving

This is my first time in Honduras, and I’ve come with no expectations. By that, I mean I had essentially no understanding about what lay ahead.

There is clearly an agenda. I catch bits of it, in Spanish, as they discuss the coming days. And I understand they have filled my time with plans to visit several villages to see many things. I’d read the proposal and the reports about the projects, so I knew what this was all about, at least on an academic level. But I couldn’t find the project areas on a map, and I’ve had little experience outside of my Canadian upbringing.

Plus, I don’t speak a word of Spanish, so finding out the plans is a challenge all around. So I keep an open mind, and listen intently to the Spanish sentences, trying to pick up what I can, asking for translation when a translator was available.

Luckily, I’ve driven on rough roads before, though Canadian recreational 4x4ing did little to prepare me for the realities of Honduran backcountry driving. But it helped to quell the panic about the steep inclines and the washouts; the men walking with machetes, and pretending not to be startled when we come across motorcycles rushing at us on blind corners (sometimes on the wrong side of the road). The backs of others trucks we see are full of extra passengers, making the trek up to the villages, or down to Danli, the nearest city.

Almost two hours later: “We get out here.” It’s a farmer’s gathering. We are in a village named Las Flores, and they are expecting us.

It’s a transformed soccer field, with people of all ages celebrating. There is a row of tables on one side of the field, displaying fruit, vegetables. One table has recycled containers of organic fertilizer and pesticides – methods they are learning and teaching each other, from Vecinos Honduras workshops.

All these are the fruits of the labour put in by village participants, who are learning and teaching each other, as part of Vecinos Honduras projects.

It was a grand start to four days of visiting in both the Azabache and the El Guano areas, listening to the stories of project participants, learning about their lives, their struggles, and their successes.

In Claveles, I visited family homes, then a meeting to weigh and measure their young children.

Monthly baby weigh-in sessions are improving child health in Honduras.

The monthly weigh-in is a part of their routine now, thank you to the programs. Before, mothers could never be sure how their babies were growing, or if they were thriving. Now, they see the numbers, and if the young ones are not thriving they get some hands-on advice. Usually, the next month sees an improvement, along with much relief to the mothers and fathers.

In my time in the villages, I watched a monthly child stimulation class; I visited health committee meetings, and heard about goals and struggles.

La Libertad has land set aside for a health centre – they want to put up a building where they can maybe bring in a nurse to help care for pregnant mothers, young children and other health needs. Now, they have to walk about three hours on the rough roads to get to the nearest health centre – in Beuna Esperanza.

Not only did we visit the current project areas, we made a few stops in the El Guano area. This is an area where there are examples of great success from past Vecinos Honduras projects.

Eva Lagos has mastered the making and selling of fried plantain chips, and is supporting her children’s attendance in a better school with her profits.

For example, we visited Eva Lagos, who has mastered the making and selling of fried plantain chips, after learning at a Vecinos Honduras workshop. She sells many pre-packaged bags – enough to make more than $400 USD per month, which she uses to send her children to a better school.

A coffee co-op meeting was held in El Guano, where we heard about the co-op’s successes and ongoing challenges. They have made enough of a profit that they have started a micro-lending program – one per cent interest for women, two per cent for men – a far cry from the interest rates offered by intermediaries who lend to the communities at a huge interest rate that can virtually never be re-paid. We also visited a member of the co-op who used a loan from the coffee co-op to build a coffee dryer.

In Claveles, Francisco Aradón, the water board president, told us about their work. The water board now has two female members, and his village is installing a new water system. Their next goal is to purchase the chlorine they want to use to keep the water safer – something they learned about at a Vecinos Honduras workshop.

Felicita Zaróm back in 2007, after installing an improved stove in her home.

In the El Guano area, I met Felicita Zaróm, who was a participant in Vecinos Honduras programs more than 10 years ago, building one of the first indoor stoves. She’s a community health promoter, and says the programs have changed her life.

Felicita Zaróm now, in 2017, 10 years later.

“I feel like a free woman. After these trainings I realized I was able to speak up in a meeting. I learned to socialize with others, I learned to speak up and have no more fears,” she says.

In my time there, not only did I see the latrines being built  – I used them. I washed my hands, and some dishes, at the pilas (a combination between a sink and a water tank); I drank coffee and spice tea made on the indoor, smokeless stoves that are being installed at a rapid rate in homes.

On my last day, I visited a village called San Jose, where Vecinos Honduras was sponsoring a celebration – the International Day of Rural Girls and Women. It took place in a concrete building with a tin roof – hot, sweaty inside. But there was grand celebration – dancing, pinatas, and lunch. I danced with Manuel Castellanos, the community participation facilitator.

I left Honduras with a much better understanding of our programs, the people who run them, and the people who participate. I learned to say Buenos Dias, Mucho Gusto, and Gracias – so much to be thankful for, and much to celebrate in these hard-won successes in the remote communities of Honduras.

If you are interested in seeing more about the programs in Honduras and more images, here’s a slideshow. You can hover over the images and use right and left arrows to view the images below!

Introducing Gender Equality Consultant, Mme Lydia Tapsoba

 

Lydia Tapsoba

Photo and article by Judy Gray

We would like to introduce Mme. Lydia TAPSOBA who is currently supporting our partner NGO, in Burkina Faso (APDC) with Gender and Gender Equality activities. Lydia is a sociologist and holds a professional degree in Social Statistics and a Master’s degree in project management. She has over 15 years of experience in community development, communication for behavioral change and gender mainstreaming in development programs. Lydia has worked with the following NGOs: Medicus Mundi, World Neighbors Oklahoma, Save the Children, and the Catholic Relief Services in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Togo.

Recently, Lydia was hired by APDC as a Gender Equity consultant.  As part of the current grant from Global Affairs Canada, greater emphasis is being placed on gender and gender equality and although this has long been part of APDC’s activities,  they sought to add to their knowledge of topics in this domain.  Lydia supported the development of the APDC Gender Action Plan, the training of 4 APDC field workers on gender and food and nutrition security, and rural entrepreneurship. She is also in charge of monitoring the implementation of the gender action plan. She has also trained 72 women leaders from the project villages on gender and gender-based violence.

Lydia is currently Gender and Nutrition Specialist for the Sahel Resilience to Food and Nutrition Insecurity Program. She is vice-chair of the board of directors of Mwangaza Action, an international NGO specializing in social mobilization issues.

Lydia is married and has a 3 year old daughter. Judy Gray had the pleasure of meeting Lydia last February while in Burkina Faso and hopes to spend a short while with her again this year, in the project area, during an upcoming mission to Fada.