More Water on Tap for Burkina Faso

BARKA Project to Drill 24 Wells in Fada in Development
As we’ve mentioned in prior blog posts, regrettably, terrorism is on the rise in Burkina Faso. The eastern region is the newest stronghold for these terrorist groups. Despite this new and dangerous threat, BARKA’s work continues…

Many large international NGOs have shuttered their doors because of the increase in insecurity, making the dire situation for the local population even more catastrophic, yet BARKA’s work continues…

In fact, we are now working with the local and regional government authorities on our most ambitious project to date- there are 24 wells needed in the commune of Fada N’Gourma for people to have a bare minimum of access to clean drinking water within 1 kilometer. So naturally, BARKA’s team is currently working out the details of a 2019 project in which we can provide those 24 wells to the wider community of 150,000 villagers. Won’t you join us?

BARKA’s success to date since 2006 has relied almost exclusively on the generosity of individuals like you to power its work forward. We’re further along than we ever thought possible and we can’t stop now. Our projects are growing more ambitious and more important than ever.

If you’d like to make a donation to become a part of this making this dream into a reality for thousands of children and villagers in Burkina to attain their birthright of clean drinking water,, please click here to make a donation now.

We acknowledge our immense gratitude to everyone who has donated to 2018’s programs, to our dozens of incredible partners both in Burkina and internationally, and most especially to BARKA’s local team in Burkina and our many volunteers and advisors in the US and France. 2018 was an incredible year and we look forward to more impact to come.

Our wishes and blessings to you and your family for a happy and healthy 2019!

2018: A Year of Impact

A Look Back at All We Achieved This Past Year:
THE WATER FAIR

  • Produced and hosted Burkina Faso’s national World Water Day celebration: The Water Fair, a 5-day event beautifully chronicled in this film.
    • In the process we met the First Lady of Burkina Faso, the US Ambassador to Burkina, and a host of other ministers and dignitaries.
  • Launched the International Water Fund, a finance mechanism to fund water projects in the east.
    • The First Lady inaugurated the Water Fund with a $2000 donation
    • The US Embassy of Burkina made a $10,000 grant for theatre sensitization
  • Created partnerships with 2 dozen enterprises, NGOs and government ministries
CLEAN WATER
  • Completed the well in Lampiadi to provide clean drinking water for 600 people and made a film profiling the impact for the village
  • Tested the water quality and conducted questionnaires of the water filters we sold to villagers in 2017
  • Tested the water quality and assessed the functionality of water committees in the 6 villages where BARKA has drilled wells
  • Established community gardens adjacent to the wells with 3 village partners
MENSTRUAL HYGIENE MANAGEMENT (MHM)
  • Expanded BARKA’s MHM project by sensitizing 500 more girls and partnering with a new high school (our 6th).
  • Co-organized the national MHM Day celebration with Wateraid, UNICEF, Plan International and other NGOs a whole lot bigger than we are!
  • Participated in a “best practices” conference with every other organization in Burkina working in the cutting edge field of MHM
IN ADDITION, we…
  • Began a search for land for a permanent headquarters in the Eastern region
  • Hosted a delegation of 4 long-time BARKA staffers from Burkina in the US for 3 weeks where they attended the Board of Director’s Annual Retreat
  • Received an incredible donation of goods from USAID including a 55 KVA generator, numerous laptops, desktops, printers, phones, desks, chairs and more
  • Sponsored 3 local cultural events in the East
  • Attended the National Water Forum and hosted a booth for the Water Fair
  • Were nominated for a Water Trophy Award
  • Established a wide array of protocols and operational procedures for greater efficiency and transparency of our operations on the ground
  • Hosted an internship for a Williams College graduate in Fada N’Gourma
  • Added two new members to BARKA’s Board of Directors
And to give you a hint of where things are headed in 2019, we developed two new major projects:
  • A 24-well WASH project (water, sanitation & hygiene) for a community of 150,000
  • A comprehensive women’s reproductive health and rights program that will be the first to distribute menstrual cups in Burkina Faso’s history.
And we’ve done all this on an annual operations budget of less than $100,000.
To say that the “Little NGO that Could” is lean and mean is an understatement!
We’d like to sincerely thank our dedicated and loving team on the ground, our incredible and tireless volunteers in the US, our Board of Directors, all of our advisors and partners, and you– because without your generous support, none of this would be possible. You have proved to us that dreams can come true and that individuals can make a difference, even in a remote rural African village thousands of miles away.
We hope you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment because you’re a part of this success and what you’ve helped to bring into the world is larger than any of us.

Click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support BARKA’s work.

Barka… and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Year-End Letter from BARKA’s Co-Founders

Much is happening in Burkina Faso right now. It was a good harvest, despite a very shaky beginning – there was no rain in June and everyone was fearing another famine like the one caused by poor rains in 2017. But the rains did come, and not too much either. It’s not easy when you grow your own food to survive.
General Gilbert Diendéré is currently standing trial for a failed coup attempt in 2015 (we were lucky to get back to Fada from Ouagadougou that day). Terrorism has been on the rise this year, especially in the East where BARKA is based. Despite all, and thanks to the generosity of our donors, BARKA’s work on the ground continues to move forward, and members of the local staff, most notably Gaoussou “Peace” Sarambe and Luc Yoda (BARKA’s Jedi knight) have stepped up to leadership positions. Their visit to the US this past summer with two other long-time BARKA staffers/family members no doubt inspired them and renewed their deep commitment. It has been rewarding to see such growth in BARKA’s local staff, as our long-term goal is for The BARKA Foundation to be able to continue its operations long after we’re gone.
2019 is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in BARKA’s history. We have several critical projects planned, with grant applications currently under consideration for each, that will be truly life-changing:
    • to train local farmers to adapt to a changing climate, preserving their livelihood
    • to be the first in Burkina’s history to distribute menstrual cups to high school girls and women, giving girls the opportunity to continue their education
    • to drill more wells and ensure WASH (water, sanitation & hygiene) in schools and communities.
The US Embassy of Burkina Faso also has provided funding for BARKA’s theatre troupe to further its pioneering Social Art program in which we sensitize on a variety of subjects through theatre.
BARKA is often referred to as “the little NGO that could”… although we couldn’t without you. Grassroots support has been BARKA’s lifeline, the fuel that has powered our work since 2006. We are so filled with gratitude for all we’ve done together, supported by your incredible generosity and belief in BARKA’s mission and methodology. Our cup runneth over, and yet, each year we must ask again, relying on your willingness, your understanding, and your generosity through individual contributions to continue this work.
Thank you for your consideration of a year-end gift and for your continued support. We look forward to what’s ahead and are so grateful that you have a seat at BARKA’s table. Happy holidays! We wish you all good things for the new year.
‘Barka’ is an African word of gratitude, blessing & reciprocity.
barka,
Ina & Esu Anahata, Co-Founders
BARKA’s Work Towards the Achievement of the SDGs

BARKA’s Work Towards the Achievement of the SDGs

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With its activities in 2015, the BARKA Foundation has made numerous contributions to the improvement of living conditions of the people of the eastern region of Burkina Faso, which fall within the logic of the SDGs. This is particularly true for the WASH, health and education related SDGs. The foundations two main projects of 2015 – a 5-Village WASH Project, and a Social Arts project which encouraged discussion of the need for clean water and good hygiene through a locally produced theatre play – can serve to highlight some ways in which the SDGs were promoted in BARKA’s work.

The following are two examples of goals and related targets which were directly addressed by BARKA’s activities:
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
– By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births
– By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births
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The play “Water for the Present and the Future” promoted better hygiene and management of water sources in villages and schools. At the play’s dramatic centre lies the death of a young child from acute diarrhoea. The villagers decide to improve their hygiene practices and take better care of their well in reaction to this traumatic event. The play was written in collaboration between BARKA and the theatre specialists from Escape Culturel Gambidi and the involvement of local actors and artists in the writing process ensured that it would reflect the reality and life experiences of the people of Burkina’s eastern region. The play was enthusiastically received by villages and schools alike and commitments were made to improve hygiene and water management practices.

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Goal 6: Ensure access to water and sanitation for all
– By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all
– By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations
– Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management
The core activities of the 5-Village WASH Project were the construction of 4 wells in villages of great need in the region and of six blocks of latrines in four schools. The sites of the wells were chosen using the method of Water Accounting: Maps of the partner village’s water points were created and analysed to identify the sites with the greatest need. The participation of local communities and their ownership of the wells was ensured through the training and continued support of village water point committees. Construction of latrines was accompanied by hygiene education for teachers and the donation of hand washing stations to schools. The latrines are all gender specific to ensure that girls will feel comfortable to use them – contributing to the achievement of a target under SDG 5, to “eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training”.
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Revelations about the Army’s Assault on Naaba Koom II

Revelations about the Army’s Assault on Naaba Koom II

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The BARKA Foundation has received first-hand information from a soldier who was in Naaba Koom at the time of the assault against the last die-hards of the RSP who refused to drop their weapons.
He informed a BARKA staffer that just before the soldiers advanced, they were read an excerpt of a speech by Thomas Sankara (copied below), about how “…the slave who does not organize his own rebellion deserves no pity for his lot. He alone is responsible for his misfortune if he harbors illusions in the dubious assurance of a master’s promise of freedom…” The slave here of course was referring to RSP soldiers still clinging to the corruption and privilege they received under the Compaore regime.
After the speech was read, the soldier said they were all ready to go and fight. It was very emotionally charged. As everyone now knows, they advanced without meeting resistance from RSP. The army solders from Bobo Dioulasso, who held a grudge against the RSP since 2011 when some of their soldiers were killed by RSP troops during a popular uprising (which sprang from social protests over the student killed in Koudougou), wanted desperately to be in the front line. As cool reason thankfully won over hot headed revenge, they were placed in the last ring of soldiers behind those of Fada, Kaya and Dedougou.
The army personnel who were taken hostage by the RSP when they tried to carry out their orders to lead the disarmament, were freed without harm. No one was killed in the assault. The shelling that had occurred earlier had hit only uninhabited buildings.
Although no deaths were reported, the soldier which BARKA’s staffer spoke to confirmed that the renegade leader of RSP’s final attempt to cling on to power had shot and killed some of his own band– RSP soldiers who had wanted to turn themselves in at the last moment, who had come to their senses. We are unclear how many RSP soldiers were killed, or whether they are included in the final official death toll which stands at 15, with 230 wounded. Even so, the government’s statement that there were “zero deaths and zero injuries” seems to not quite tell the whole story.
One official statement from an Army spokesperson said there were no casualties because the last of the recalcitrants left before the army got there, fleeing either by motorcycle or by foot. The soldier BARKA spoke to confirmed that some RSP soldiers were still on the loose. He also informed us that as these soldiers were caught and rounded up, they were beaten. If these fleeing RSP soldiers were unfortunate enough to be found by the soldiers from Bobo, they were beaten badly.  The New York Times reported that an army spokesman said that only 15-20 soldiers soldiers of the guard unit which once numbered 1300 refused to disarm.
Lastly, as late as October 6, BARKA received an update from the US Embassy that people should continue to avoid the area of Ouaga2000, especially around camp Naaba Koom, because the army was detonating artillery munitions that did not go off when fired in the three salvos made before soldiers advanced.

And now, for those words of Sankara’s read by the Army General to inspire the soldiers before advancing on RSP:
Special Thanks to The Militant, Vol.62/No.14 April 13, 1998

`Freedom Can Be Won Only In Struggle’
Below we reprint excerpts from the speech “Freedom can be won only through struggle” by Thomas Sankara, a leader of a democratic and anti-imperialist revolution in Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta) from 1983 until his assassination in a counterrevolutionary coup in 1987. Sankara presented this speech to the United Nations General Assembly in October 1984. The struggle Sankara led to begin the transformation of Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world, provides an example to toilers in Africa and elsewhere of how social and economic advancement for the overwhelming majority is possible only through struggle against the imperialist system that breeds underdevelopment and misery. The excerpt is taken from the book Thomas Sankara Speaks, copyright (c)1988 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted with permission.

BY THOMAS SANKARA

A few simple facts serve to describe the former Upper Volta: A country with seven million inhabitants, more than six million of whom are peasants; an infant mortality rate estimated at 180 per 1,000 and an illiteracy rate of up to 98 percent, if we define as literate someone who can read, write, and speak a language; an average life expectancy of only forty years; one doctor for 50,000 inhabitants; a school- attendance rate of only 16 percent; and, finally, a Gross Domestic Product of 53,356 CFA francs per capita, or barely over $ 100. The diagnosis before us was somber. The cause of the illness was political. The cure could only be political.

Of course, we encourage aid that helps us to overcome the need for aid. But in general, the policy of foreign aid and assistance produced nothing but disorganization and continued enslavement. It robbed us of our sense of responsibility for our own economic, political, and cultural territory.

We chose to risk new paths to achieve greater happiness. We chose to apply new techniques and to look for forms of organization better suited to our civilization. We abruptly and definitively rejected all forms of foreign diktats, thus creating the conditions for a dignity worthy of our ambitions. To reject mere survival and ease the pressures; to liberate the countryside from feudal paralysis or regression; to democratize our society and open our minds to a universe of collective responsibility in order to dare to invent the future….

We swear – we state categorically – that henceforth nothing in Burkina Faso will ever again be undertaken without the participation of Burkinabe. Henceforth, we will conceive and decide on everything. This is a precondition. There will be no further assaults on our sense of decency and dignity.

Fortified by this conviction, we would like our words to embrace all those who are in pain and all those whose dignity is being trampled on by a handful of men or by a system intent on crushing them.

To all those listening to me, allow me to say that I speak not only in the name of my beloved Burkina Faso, but also in the name of all those who are suffering in any corner of the world. I speak in the name of the millions who live in ghettos because they have black skin or because they come from different cultures, and whose status is barely better than that of an animal. I suffer in the name of the Indians who have been massacred, crushed, humiliated, and confined for centuries on reservations to the point where they can claim no rights and their culture cannot enrich itself through beneficial union with others, including the culture of the invader. I speak out in the name of those thrown out of work by a system that is structurally unjust and periodically in crisis, whose only view of life is a reflection of that of the affluent.

I speak on behalf of women the world over, who suffer at the hands of a male-imposed system. We welcome suggestions from anywhere in the world on how to achieve the full development of Burkinabe women. In exchange, we can offer to share with all other countries the positive experience we have had with women who now participate at every level of the state apparatus and in all aspects of Burkina’s social life. Women in struggle proclaim in unison with us that the slave who does not organize his own rebellion deserves no pity for his lot. He alone is responsible for his misfortune if he harbors illusions in the dubious assurance of a master’s promise of freedom. Freedom can be won only through struggle and we call on all our sisters of all races to rise to the assault and fight to conquer their rights.

I speak on behalf of the mothers in our impoverished countries who watch their children die of malaria or diarrhea, ignorant of the fact that there are simple ways to save them. The science of the multinationals, however, keeps this knowledge from them, preferring instead to serve the cosmetics laboratories and provide plastic surgery to satisfy the whims of a few men and women whose charm is threatened by the excess of calories in their meals, the richness and regularity of which would make you – or rather us front the Sahel – dizzy. We have decided to adopt and popularize the simple measures recommended by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

I speak, too, in the name of the child – the hungry child of the poor who furtively eyes the accumulation of abundance in the rich man’s stores. The store is protected by a thick glass window; the window is protected by impenetrable bars; the bars are protected by a policeman in helmet and gloves, armed with a billy club and posted there by the father of another child who can come and serve himself, or rather be served, just because he has the credentials guaranteed by the system’s capitalist norms….

In our opinion, we need a serious study that takes into account all of the elements that have led to the calamities that have befallen the world. In this regard, President Fidel Castro expressed our point of view admirably in 1979 at the opening of the Sixth Summit Conference of Nonaligned Countries when he declared, “Three hundred billion dollars is enough to build 600,000 schools a year with a capacity of 400 million children; or 60 million comfortable homes with a capacity of 300 million people; or 50,000 hospitals with 18 million beds; or 20,000 factories to provide employment for more than 20 million workers; or make possible the irrigation of 150 million hectares of land, which with an adequate technical level could provide food for a billion people.” If we multiply these figures by ten – and I am sure this would fall well short of today’s reality – we will see what humanity squanders every year in the military arena in opposition to peace.

One can easily see why the masses’ indignation rapidly becomes rebellion against the crumbs thrown their way in the insulting form of aid – an aid often tied to frankly contemptible conditions. One can understand why our struggle for development demands that we be tireless fighters for peace.
sankara quote

The People’s Army Returns Home- Video

 

This blog series would not be complete without the inclusion of its final dramatic chapter.  Burkina Faso has been quiet today (Sept 30) and yesterday, like old times, before the disturbance of the coup.  But everyone was waiting for news which came trickling slowly out of the Burkina government.

What we knew late Tuesday night was that the army was preparing an attack on the RSP barracks Naaba Koom II.  General Diendere had asked RSP elements to stand down and disarm, however it was clear that there were still some RSP holdouts, who may have even gone rogue and were now acting on their own.  The New York Times just today cited that there were only 20 die-hards refusing to disarm.  They had even taken hostage the army personnel that was in charge of overseeing the hand over of their weapons.

Atmosphere in Ouaga was tense as the army closed in and took positions around the area of Ouaga 2000 on Tuesday afternoon.  A government announcement was made asking citizens to stay away from the Ouaga 2000 area.  The government declared the situation to be at an impasse and accused the regiment of soliciting help from “jihadists” in the following statement:

“This handful of die-hards has taken hostage not only members of the former R.S.P. who wanted to rejoin the side of reason, but also officers of the national armed forces tasked with disarming them. But even more seriously, the government knows that they have called foreign forces and jihadist groups to their rescue to realize their dark scheme.”

Western nations fear the advancement of jihadist groups in the West African region (such as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or AQIM) and the Compaore regime’s strongman tactics had kept them at bay, in large part through the support of the US and France via military training, intelligence, etc.  Some analysts have expressed concern about the possible rise of terrorists groups in the area after the fall of the Compaore regime.  Although that remains to be seen, it is widely known that General Diendere was a chief negotiator in the region and would have access to these jihadist groups. Diendere would later “categorically deny” this accusation that he had approached such groups to come to the aid of his ill-fated coup attempt.

By late Tuesday evening, the army was prepared to strike Naaba Koom II, the RSP barracks, which was said to be largely abandoned at that point save for the remaining few RSP soldiers refusing to surrender.  The Burkina Faso army fired several rounds of heavy artillery.  They then advanced into the compound without meeting any resistance and the last holdouts surrendered without a fight.  The army had succeeded in doing what it set out to do- take Ouaga back from the RSP and coup leaders without any further bloodshed.

The following day there was no news for many hours.  People were not sure what had taken place and whether there were any casualties. Although Diendere had said he thought there would be many deaths, his fears proved to be unfounded.  By the late afternoon the Burkina government released the following statement:

“The coup elements of the former R.S.P. remained unbending in their will to define the Burkinabe people… Using delaying tactics in the expectation of foreign reinforcements and in the hope of an eventually rallying of internal support, these coup elements, surrounded by a group of die-hards, have held the daily lives of millions of Burkinabe people. Faced with a situation that had become intolerable for our people, and determined to turn this dark page in our common history, our patriotic Defense and Security Forces carried out their responsibilities successfully.”

With RSP now officially disbanded and the last remaining stalwarts defeated, the only remaining piece of the puzzle was General Diendere himself, whose whereabouts were still unknown.  He was not in Naaba Koom at the time of the shelling.  His car was reported to have been burned. Tweets were sent saying he had tried to seek refuge at the US Embassy which turned him away.  The Embassy later tweeted, “We are following the situation closely. General Diendéré is not located on the premises of the Embassy of the United States”, followed by the tweet, “Embassy networks is not and could not shelter any person or family seeking refuge.” The number of Embassies at which Diendere tried to seek asylum is unknown, however sources say he received several refusals before eventually finding temporary refuge in the Embassy of the Vatican, located near Diendere’s office and the US Embassy which are also situated close to the Presidential Palace.  This was not actually confirmed until Wednesday by the BBC, although it had been widely talked about on Twitter beforehand.  Interestingly, the Vatican never confirmed the presence of Diendere, however it was closed to the public for two days and guarded by several armored vehicles and trucks.

Diendere remained holed up in the Vatican Embassy for two days, negotiating the terms of his surrender.  Sources close to the negotiations say he had wanted to be able to leave the country and come back to Burkina to face justice when “the voltage lowers”, but knew that this would never have been accepted by the population at large.  On Thursday, October 1, former President of Burkina Faso Jean Baptiste Ouedraogo handed Diendere over to the Burkina authorities.  He was driven to the National Gendarmerie in an armored truck, Prime Minister Zida having assured his personal safety as part of the terms of surrender.

The final move in this 2-week drama, took place on Friday evening, when the national army units that had left their regional barracks to converge on the capital of Ouagadougou to restore Democracy, returned to their regional posts.  Thousands of Burkinabe filled the streets of the nation on foot, on bicycle, on motos, motorcycles and in cars to welcome the troops home.  This is after all, the people’s army.  This is the army that stood by the side of the people during the October 30 revolution last year.  Now they were returning home after finishing the job. The soldiers from Fada, where we are based, left Ouaga at 1pm. Although it would normally be a 3 hour drive for the convoy, they didn’t arrive to their destination until after 10pm because the streets were so full of joyous, celebrating citizens, proud of their army and grateful to them for their show of force and peaceful resolution.

Many analysts had said the coup was disastrous for Africa as Burkina had become an indicator for the continent as a whole with regard to autocrats and dictators who are clinging on to power and making constitutional amendments to remain in power.  All eyes are watching Burkina as it set its own course toward democracy with a transition government that proved to be quite vulnerable. The fact that Burkina Faso so quickly foiled this coup attempt and got its democratic process back on track is proof that the era of the African military coup could very well be giving way to a new era in which power is achieved through the ballot box and popular elections.  Burkina is once again providing an example of how true democracy can be achieved in Africa in the 21st Century.