Burkina Faso, which means “country of the honest people”, lies in the Sahel region of West Africa. Landlocked, with a population of 15,000,000, can boast few natural resources, little industries and uncertain rainfall on which most of the inhabitants count for their main means of livelihood: subsistence farming. The country suffers terrible droughts as a result of deforestation and progressive desertification. An area of more than 70 kilometers around the capital of Ouagadougou is now entirely without trees, stripped by its population, who use wood as virtually their only energy source. The rapid degradation of vegetation, combined with torrential yet often irregular rains, are contributing to erosion and a loss of soil fertility in a country where only 13% of land is arable. All this makes of Burkina Faso one of the poorest countries in the world. Life expectancy is calculated at 52 years of age with a high infant mortality rate. Approximately 37% of men and 17% of women are illiterate. There is a doctor for every 30,000 inhabitants... But Burkina is also a fascinating country with a rich culture, in which 65 ethnic groups live together in peace. The most numerous are the Mossi, the Peul, the Goumantché, the Bobo and the Gourounssi. Religious groups are Muslim 50%, Animist 40% and Christian 10%.
Burkina Faso is a democratically constituted Republic. Since obtaining full independence in 1960, its political panorama has been dominated by the Organization for Popular Democracy/Labour Movement. The period following independence from France was marked by intense political instability and a string of five coup d’etats in just 20 years. The most significant was that of 1983, which brought Thomas Sankara to power as a champion of women’s emancipation, the fight against corruption and, above all, economic development of the country. In 1987, another coup ousted the Sankara government and the country lived through a difficult transition towards democracy and the passage of reforms which led to the official recognition of political parties and presidential elections. Burkina today enjoys relatively good political stability. Since obtaining full independence in 1960, its political panorama has been dominated by the Organization for Popular Democracy/Labour Movement. The period following independence from France was marked by intense political instability and a string of five coup d’etats in just 20 years. The most significant was that of 1983, which brought Thomas Sankara to power as a champion of women’s emancipation, the fight against corruption and, above all, economic development of the country. In 1987, another coup killed Sankara and ousted its government. The country lived through a difficult transition towards democracy and the passage of reforms which led to the official recognition of political parties and presidential elections. On October 30, 2014, Blaise Compaore, one of Africa’s longest serving Presidents announced his resignation today after 27 years of rule. The announcement came after tens of thousands of Burkinabes took to the streets to protest his attempts to alter the country’s constitution to enable him to remain in office for a fifth consequtive term. The situation is under control with diplomatic Michel Kafando guiding the country until new elections.
The first malaria vaccine is set to be given the green light by regulators on Friday, opening the door for the World Health Organization to recommend its use in developing countries. But in this week's Scrubbing Up, By Dr Seth Berkley, chief executive officer of Gavi (the Vaccine Alliance), and Dr Mark Dybul, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, say it won't be a straightforward decision. Read more
The Senegalese story of Y'en in Marre is perhaps the most articulated among the organizations of the current African civil society. But not the only one. Another success story of African civilism is that of the Balai Citoyen of Burkina Faso, who has been able to mobilize young people and students to bring down President Blaise Compaoré. Unlike the Senegalese effervescence, in Burkina everything seems calm, the cities, the people, the streets. In reality it is a country with a long "moving" tradition. The first coup d'état, 1966, is a reaction to the popular insurrection of the unions against the Yaméogo regime accused of corruption and nepotism. The military is competing for power until in 1983 emerges Thomas Sankara, since then consecrated by the myth. For almost five years Sankara has been trying to change the country (to which it changes its name: from Alto Volta in Burkina Faso, "the country of intact men") adopting the Marxist and Maoist dictates. He is killed during a putsch directed by his second, Compaore. Despite the harshness of its politics, Sankara still remains legendary today for its austerity of life, independence and ideological simplicity, on the same level as Lumumba, Cabral or Che Guevara. On the contrary, Compaoré is a pragmatist who prudently guides Burkina - a Sahelian and poor state - in the harsh weather of liberalism, globalization and Sahelian terrorism. Even if the country stabilizes and acquires its international status, Compaoré will never be forgiven for the end of Sankara, as well as nepotism and illicit profits. He is also pursued by the obscure case of the murder of the opposition journalist Norbert Zongo, which took place in 1998. Unlike Sankara, he was never loved, perhaps respected but eventually detested. In May 2014, the president, strong of over 25 years of power, makes a risky act that acts as a detonator: change the Constitution to obtain a further mandate. The break with the younger generations is immediate: thousands of people are taking to the streets, first in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second city of the country, then to Ouagadougou, the capital, and elsewhere. Everyone is holding the African pick-up made of raffia: it is the birth of the balai citoyen who wants to "wipe out" corruption and nepotism. It is a crescendo until October, when a million young people are on the streets in Ouagadougou shouting "touche pas à ma Constitution!" ("Do not touch my Constitution"). The same political opposition is taken aback and tries to ride the movement. The reform is withdrawn, but the young people now want to leave Compaoré. On October 30, they attack and burn Parliament, the offices of the TV, the seats of the ruling party, the houses of the powerful, etc. Overthrown by events, on 31 October the president resigns and abandons the country. Balai Citoyen has won, but does not enter the government: is constituted as a watchdog of the new rulers with the motto of: "Watching, organizing the struggle, promoting civic awareness”.
An ingenious object, a plastic canister shaped as a wheel which can contain up to 75 litres of water. It's easily transported with the help of a piece of rope. Produced in South Africa since 1993 by its inventor Pieter Hendrikse, it can change the life of millions. For more info : www.qdrum.co.za
Ancient and effective, the farming tecnique of zaï, which in the Mossi language means 'ditch'. It involves digging holes in the group of about 30 cm deep and 20 wide, filling them with goat manure mixed with ashes and dry leaves, then seeding them. Then farmers wait for the rain, which the ditches absorbe to the last drop. New pioneer of this conquest of the deserte is Burkinabè Yacouba Sawadogo. www.theguardian.com www.thepermaculturepodcast.com