Diana Biggs | KF 18 | Burkina Faso
Last Friday, I had the opportunity to take part in «la Journée du Volontariat Français», an event at the French Institute of Ouagadougou which aims to promote the actions of French volunteers in Burkina Faso. As I commended my French colleague for the generosity of his fellow French citizens, he explained to me that although the best translation I seem to be able to find for «Volontariat » is «Volunteer », it is not the same as volunteers who actually work for free, for whom the term « bénévoles » is used (Hello, Kiva Fellows!).
Enter “la Journée du Volontariat Français”…
In its second iteration, the event attracted around 500 attendees: Authorities, volontariats, associations and NGOs. Despite its name, it wasn’t a day just for the French, but was also well attended by “Burkinabés” (the term for people from Burkina Faso) – and even one Canadian…
Inside the auditorium, various presentations and round tables took place around themes such as volunteering — a substitution for local employment?, and the image of the volunteer.
The well-attended presentations / debates
Meanwhile, outside, booths were set up by several organizations – including Kiva Field Partner and NGO Entrepreneurs du Monde (EdM) where we promoted our projects and even made some sales!
My colleagues working the EdM booth
EdM currently runs two social entrepreneurship projects here in Burkina Faso. The first is “Spirulina, Microfinance, and Health.” In a country situated in the Sahel desert, where the life expectancy is an estimated 55 years, nutritional support is needed. For those not up on their superfoods, Spirulina is an edible algae very rich in protein, vitamins, minerals and carotenoids. It is locally produced at seven farms in Burkina Faso, which EdM distributes in powder and capsule gel form through a network of vendors who are trained by EdM.
These vendors receive loans in the form of spirulina packets to launch their sales business or for social distribution. This helps to achieve multiple goals, including supporting the production of local goods (here, the spirulina farms), income generation for the network of spirulina vendors and the promotion of health in their communities.
Before I dive into project number 2, let’s take a lunch break. Generously provided by the sponsors of the event was my first Burkinabé meal! « Ris gras » (rice in English), grilled chicken, cabbage, African eggplant, carrot and some very spicy sauces… yum!
Lunch! My first Burkinabé meal
Turning our attention back to work, EdM’s second project — larger in terms of operations, resources and number of partners involved, and the focus of the Kiva partnership — is «Save for a Cookstove». With the aim of contributing to the improvement of living standards and engaging in a durable fight against desertification, EdM is working on the production and distribution of gas and energy-efficient stoves, made available with the help of microcredit.
As my Fellowship revolves around setting up loans for this product, groups of women as well as local distributors, I’ll soon be writing a blog post dedicated to describing this project in more detail. For those who are simply too eager to find out more, I recommend you check out EdM’s homepage.
The products on offer at EdM
You may notice, on this stand there is also a solar-powered lamp – this is a new product, produced in Burkina Faso, currently being tested by EdM for potential distribution. Many visitors to our booth commented that this would be a great idea!
The evening ended with a reception at the Residence de France, the location of receptions for the French Ambassador to Burkina Faso. Not a bad way to end the day!
Est-ce que c’est vrai…??
Champagne? Yes, please! Not so fast, Voluntariats, that’s just the box for the glasses…
Diana Biggs is a Kiva Fellow stationed with Entrepreneurs du Monde in Burkina Faso. Stay tuned for efficient cookstove loans through this Field Partner on kiva.org/lend.