Dear BARKA Supporter,
We are settling back in the rhythm of life here in the USA after three grueling, swelteringly hot and productive 3+ months in Burkina. Here is an update of the miraculous work that took place on the ground between March and June:
It is hard to describe the joy of the reunion with the villagers of Tantiaka after being away more than two years. This has become our family and although it was hard to be gone from them for so long, we wanted to make sure we had the financial resources to complete the first phase of the project-- to drill the well and build composting latrines for the village. With your steadfast and patient support, we were able to do exactly that.
Working hand in hand with the local governmental authorities (Prefect and Mayor), the traditional authorities (particularly Lompo, the king of 44 villages), and the local water & sanitation steering committee (consisting of and appointed by villagers themselves) we met with the entire village numerous times. These meetings were conducted in the local language (made possible by BARKA's fantastic local partners) and focused on the need for improved sanitation, as well as teaching the principles of basic hygiene. In a community where open defecation is the norm, behavior change is the name of the game and doesn't come easy. Thankfully, the village was with us and understood the need for these changes to sustain the benefits of clean water and to improve overall health for all.
From the moment we arrived in Burkina we began searching for the best local partner to drill the well. When we found OCADES we knew we had found the right one. They guarantee their work for a year, have an optional training program to teach people how to troubleshoot problems down the road, and were meticulous in finding the perfect spot to drill for water (working with the village committee at every step). By Earth Day on April 22nd, the planet had its newest borehole in the ground. The well drillers said it was among the best they had ever seen in terms of its depth and flow rate. The water was tested and proved to be good drinking water. Over the next 6 weeks, a concrete platform was built, the wheel pump was installed (we opted for the wheel because it makes for easier and less laborious access), and a reservoir was constructed where animals will be able to make use of any excess water from the well.
Simultaneously, project partner ONEA (the national sanitation company) was working with villagers to construct the gender-specific composting latrines. These latrines make use of a simple and innovative technology that successfully transforms humanure into agricultural fertilizer. This embodies BARKA's commitment to low-tech sustainable solutions that are appropriate for rural communities. ONEA also hired specialists to lead village meetings which focused on how to use and maintain the latrines, and why improved sanitation is healthier than open defecation.
By the end of May we were ready to inaugurate the new well and composting latrines. By this time BARKA had successfully made several new relationships with potential future partners and they all came to see the results of our efforts in the field. USAID, the US Embassy, heads of international NGOs and country-based organizations traveled far (some almost 4 hours) to come and celebrate with us. BARKA's robust hygiene education program continued with a theatrical performance in the local language emphasizing how to make the best use of their new source for clean water and how to avoid health problems. And in keeping with BARKA's belief that local culture must be a strong component within development, a traditional dance troupe performed and electrified us all with its tam tams (big, deep sounding drums) and crowd-pleasing dance moves. Many VIPs spoke including the local king and Prefect. In addition, a BARKA partner from 2009, the National Lottery of Burkina (LONAB) which is a private company announced a generous donation to BARKA Foundation. Lastly, in a symbolic effort to unite indigenous Africa with the indigenous people of the United States, we sang the Native American Water Song as an official representative of LONAB turned the wheel of the well. We ended the Inauguration with a conference call to all US donors as a way to literally bring our supporters to the party. And of course, there was then a big feast. Villagers rose to the occasion by preparing enough food and local millet beer to feed the six villages which came to the blessed event.
In short, it was a high point of our lives. The fulfillment of this promise seems to have opened many doors both in Burkina and internationally and we're now preparing for BARKA's next steps which will include ongoing work with Tantiaka (more on that in the next project report) and plans for a new well in another village where women currently have to walk 7 kilometers every day for water. We are humbled by the knowledge that we could not have achieved this without you and are grateful beyond words. Please share this beautiful and inspiring story with your friends and family to garner more support for more successful projects in Burkina Faso.
On behalf of the villagers of Tantiaka, we say barka to you-- bless you, thank you.
Ina & Esu
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Founder of BARKA foundation