Women Drive Change in Burkina Faso
In the Center-North Region of Burkina Faso, senior male household members make most of the family decisions about income, land, health care, purchases, and communal resources. However, that practice has started to change progressively in certain households, such as that of Rasmata Sawadogo and her husband, Moïse.
In the Zablo village, in the commune of Kaya, Rasmata and Moïse, along with other women and their husbands, have benefited from several Victory against Malnutrition Project (ViM) activities focused on sensitizing communities to gender issues, particularly, women’s rights and the important role women play in food production.
Funded by USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and implemented by ACDI/VOCA, in partnership with Save the Children and local partners, ViM is reducing food insecurity by improving farmers’ production and incomes and households’ health and nutrition through greater gender equity. Women are vital to producing food for their households, and healthier families need sustainable livelihoods, regardless of gender.
ViM applies a gender-inclusive approach to trainings, and the results are starting to show as participants apply the practices they learn. Between 2016 and 2017, ViM’s project team saw a 34 percent increase in women using at least four improved agricultural production techniques.
Because of what the women of Zablo have learned and shared, the whole village is now adopting natural resource management techniques, such as Zaï. Zaï is a sustainable, drought-tolerant African planting method used to revitalize the soil in dry climates. It is a proven method that is helping households like Rasmata’s to overcome critically low crop yields and insufficient food production in the harsh conditions of the Sahel.
The women of Zablo quickly adopted the Zaï technique, which they learned through ViM’s farmer field school training. Before working with ViM, the women would break up rocks for a local construction company for very little pay.
Though Rasmata and the other women in her group achieved impressive yields of cowpea, millet, sorghum, and other crops, her husband, Moïse, was skeptical of Zaï. He changed his attitude after planting a small test plot of sorghum using the Zaï method and seeing it thrive.
Rasmata and Moïse’s now grow enough food for their family of seven and sell the rest for additional income. This is a direct result of the Zaï trainings and gender-attitude shifts that ViM facilitated. ViM’s project team is finding that men’s perceptions of women participating in income-generating activities, and thus household income decision making, is slowly shifting in the project’s intervention areas.
“Living in a rural setting, one rarely feels comfortable saying they can feed themselves. I am confident to say that our family has enough food to feed ourselves.” – Moïse Sawadogo, a ViM participant
The family now eats well, and Moïse takes into account Rasmata’s opinions on household decisions. He says that her women’s group is well-respected by the men of Zablo. Others in neighboring villages regularly consult him and Rasmata about their knowledge of Zaï and organic fertilizer composting, and the couple intends to further develop the skills they have learned.