If some individuals believe that starting from scratch could produce results, more convincing is showing evidences of success to reach desired results. Women in the village of Bonnessin Dagoulé, Kourittenga province proved to their husbands and the traditional authorities that they could transform their entire family lives to the best. They won trust and respect, and were able to make a breakthrough in what is considered in most part of Burkina Faso impossible to women: acquiring land. These women are the “Wend-songdo” (Help us God in the Mooré language) village savings and loans group.
This is the first time, that I ever saw land granted to women. These are the words of the son of the Bonnessin land chief, Kayaba Tougma, an elderly and respected authority who accepted to grant the Wend-songdo group, 2,5 hectares of land to lead common farming activities.
The women owe this outstanding decision to the results of a year savings, loans, and income generating activities which made positive changes in their families and generated men’s appreciation and enthusiasm.
A group of 25 members 2 years ago, and 33 today, each member saved shares of ¢20, with a maximum of 5 shares according to the regulations. They also added ¢5 to each share for solidarity needs. The money is distributed among members willing to undertake some business with a fixed interest of 5%. At the end of a year cycle, they raised $1,580 and shared the money among themselves.
Member gained between $50 and $120. But with their individual incoming generating activities during the year, most made as much as what they what they gained from their actual savings.
The women who used to ask for everything from their husbands started to pay for their children’s school fees, take care of their health charges, buy foodstuffs. The quality of the food in the home improved. they even lent some money to their husbands to solve small pressing issues. The latter appreciated the change in their homes, and from times to times, gave some money to their wives to complete the 5 shares when they didn’t have enough to do it.
During the group’s weekly meetings, in addition to their financial activities, the women are entertained by experts committed by Plan International on specific subjects such as family planning, reproductive health, child care, child protection, education, especially girls’ schooling. Entrepreneurship sessions were held, and led women to undertake common initiatives, as Plan International coupled the sessions with kits to support them. They therefore decided to make “soumbala” a widely used protein rich seasoning that some of them were already trading in. In six months, the group which took a common loan of $53 from their coffer was able to generate another $50 after reimbursing the loan with interest. From that they made today a profit of $100 kept in a local bank saving account, and are still using the $50 to produce “soumbala”.
The idea which earned them the land is to grow crops together for sale in order to build a borehole in the future. Being confronted with difficult water shores, the women need a borehole. They went to the land depositor to advocate for land. They explained to him that they want to grow some cash crops including groundnuts, sesame, millet, and beans on every rainy season. They would sell the crops, save the money until they find a partner who will drill a borehole for them. They would then have something to contribute to the borehole cost. The argument, in addition to the good reputation of the group members convinced the land depositor, and he granted them the 2,5 hectares.
The past rainy season saw the first use of the field by the women. Their husbands decided to give them a hand in the farm. Sibdou Tougma, one of the husbands explains. Each one of us happened, once in a while to lend a plough, a cow, or a donkey to attach to the plough. He adds:
Women sowed the seeds, tilled the ground, while some of us sang songs of encouragement, and others helped to till.
Even though the rainy season was not good enough, they made some harvest, and kept their produce, waiting for July when the foodstuff prices reach their highest pick to sell them for about $400. The women hope to harvest much more in the years to come. The land which was given to them will remain theirs forever. Official allotment will have to take the women’s land into account, even if it has to be relocated. The husbands are ready to intervene in order to guarantee that the women still have their common land to work on, as long as they remain the successful savings and loans groups committed to the improvement of life in their community.
Community of Bonnessin Dagoule women formed a savings and loans group, managed to be granted land, won the respect of their husbands and plan together to get a borehole in their village, where now gender relations have moved a step forward.