Orbea decaisneana subsp. hesperidum
Orbea decaisneana subsp. hesperidum is a much-branched succulent that grows up to 8 inches (20 cm) tall, forming diffuse mats up to 20…
OUAHIGOUYA, Burkina Faso, 15 October 2012 - In northwest Burkina Faso, deep in the Sahel belt, a small oasis is beginning to take shape.
|VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Guy Hubbard reports on a garden managed by local women that benefits a whole community in Burkina Faso. Watch in RealPlayer|
Bordering the vast Sahara Desert, the Sahel stretches across the African continent. Eking out any kind of life here is tough, but a group of women are turning their corner of this harsh, arid region into a lush and productive garden. In a place where people survive mainly on nutritionally poor grain millet, the vegetables these women produce are changing their families’ diets – and lives.
In this area, malnutrition is rampant. Burkina Faso was one of nine countries affected by recent droughts. But even in times of plenty, nutrition is a problem – not necessarily because of a lack of food, but rather because of a lack of the right kinds of food. Vitamin-rich fruit and vegetables are expensive, and mothers are often unaware of the importance of these foods to their families’ diets.
Kientego Sierotta heads a group of 54 women who are transforming the landscape. She’s a mother and works with her 8-month-old baby on her back. After an hour of digging and planting, she takes a break to feed him.
“The nutritional situation of children before the setting up of the project was severe,” she says. “The children were falling sick regularly. But, since we started to work here and the garden started producing vegetables, the children have been less sick, and we have changed our diets.”
“We couldn't afford vegetables before,” Ms. Sierotta continues. “Now we can eat them and sell the surplus, and generally the situation has improved significantly.”
The women receive training on farming techniques and funding towards the construction of wells. The initiative is part of a 1.7 million euro joint action between UNICEF and the European Union aimed at improving nutrition security. The four-year programme aims to reach almost one and one-half thousand villages across Burkina Faso through various projects and interventions. The programme is not an emergency response mechanism, but rather an effort to improve nutrition security across the country so that when nutrition crises do happen, families, especially children, are better able to handle the impact.
Through crop selection and rotation, the garden produces fruit and vegetables year round and is giving the women a more active role in their community. After feeding their families, they can sell the excess produce, providing income for the women.
“The benefits are huge for us and the community, in general. It allows us to feed our families better. It also allows us to be a breadwinner for the family – we can help with our children’s school fees, their health and also assist friends and family,” explains Ms. Sierotta.
Some of the excess fruit and vegetables end up at the Ouahigouya market, where, through the programme, fruit and vegetable vendors have been taught the nutritional value of their wares. The vendors also share this information with their customers.
Sawadogo Detu is one of the vendors who has been trained. Each vendor has volunteered, and each one feels it is his or her duty to help the community improve its nutritional status.
“I received training about the causes of undernutrition and how to prevent it, so, when customers come to buy from me, I explain the benefits of each item to their diet and how they should prepare them,” she says. “I volunteered because I am a mother, and I need to make sure that my family is fed properly. Now that I’m trained, I teach others, as well, so that every family is well fed.”
It is early to gauge the impact such interventions will have in the long term. However, mothers involved in the programme are already reporting that their children are healthier and more energetic, that they’re doing better in school – and that they fall sick less often.
Communities are better fed, more educated and more financially secure and are looking forward to a time when they are no longer at the mercy of the Sahel.
- 1 Understand
- 2 Get in
- 2.1 By bus
- 2.2 By taxi
- 3 See
- 4 Do
- 5 Buy
- 5.1 Marché
- 5.2 Boutiques
- 6 Eat
- 6.1 Restaurants
- 6.2 Street food and snacks
- 7 Drink
- 8 Sleep
- 9 Connect
- 9.1 Post Office
- 9.2 Internet
- 10 Go next
Fada n'Gourma is a city in East Burkina Faso, capital of the Region Est and Province Gourma, as well as seat of the king of Gulmu (=Gourma).
Fada N’Gourma is mainly inhabited by the Gulmance people, along with a smattering of Mossi and Peulh. Although the Gulmance account for only 4.5% of the national population, they have a strong culture with much history surrounding it. The founder of Fada is said to have ridden a horse up a baobab tree and disappeared, but the horse’s hoof prints remain in the tree.
Red is considered a problematic color for the Gulmance (they prefer black and white) and there is a sacred mountain in the area that a person cannot go up if he or she is wearing a red shirt. Also, the crocodiles in the barrage are considered sacred, and they may not be killed.
Fada-Ouagadougou 220K Fada-Bilanga: 76K Fada-Kompienga: 137K Fada-Matiakoali: 94K Fada-Kantchari: 150K Fada-Niger: 172K Fada-Benin: 150K
By bus Edit
STMB: 40.77.06.94 (Fada) 188.8.131.52 (Ouaga)
- Fada to Ouagadougou: one-way 2000 CFA, round-trip 3000 CFA 7:30, 12:00, 18:00, 6:00 (Fridays only), 10:00 (every day but Friday)
- Ouagadougou to Fada: one-way 2500 CFA, round-trip 3000 CFA 7:30, 10:00, 13:30, 14:00, 18:00 daily
Fada to Kantchari: one-way 2000 CFA 14:00 daily
ZST: 184.108.40.206 (Ouaga) Fada to Ouaga: one-way 2000 CFA, round-trip 3000 CFA 7:00, 9:30, 13:00, 18:00 daily Ouaga to Fada: one-way 2500 CFA, round-trip 3000 CFA 7:00, 9:00, 13:00, 18:00 daily Ouaga to Kompienga: one-way 4000 CFA, round-trip 7000 CFA 9:00 daily Kompienga to Ouaga: one-way 4000 CFA, round-trip 7000 CFA 7:00 daily
By taxi Edit
"Far away" gare minimum twice per day:
- Fada to Bilanga: one-way 1500 CFA
- Fada to Gayeri: one-way 1500 CFA
- Fada to Piela: one-way 1750 CFA
Central gare minimum twice per day:
- Fada to Pama: one-way 1500 CFA
- Fada to Kompienga: one-way 2000 CFA
Botanical Garden Bantia: Visit this beautiful spot just 10 km South of Fada N'Gourma with typical savanna and wetland habitats of the region, trees marked with their scientific and gourmantché names, some birds, small mammals and reptiles. The garden has a central rest area, a small museum and a guesthouse, where you can spend the night. (+226 70 30 24 76)
FESDIG:  The Festival Dilembu au Gulmu (FESDIG) is one of the highlights of the music scene in Burkina Faso, taking place every year in February/March in the village Tiantiaka just outside of Fada N'Gourma and also including poetry, dance and traditional Gulmu wrestling.
Réserve de Pama: The reserve de Pama is part of a large complex of protected areas in the SE of Burkina Faso and in the neighbouring countries Benin and Niger. An entrance to the northern part of the reserve is just a few km East of Fada on the road to Niamey.
Marché day is every Sunday, and the Fada marché seems to offer just about the same stuff as other marches in relatively big villes
There are a couple of pretty good alimentations where you can find things like tuna in water. In general, you can support the east by buying things like Miel du Gourma (not to be confused with imitation products like Miel Naturel du Gourma), Biala drinking water, and Lait du Gourma milk and yogurt (it’s delicious).
- Restaurant de L’Est – moderately expensive. Like most Burkinabè restaurants, they don’t always have everything on their menu, but it’s one of the classier, more overpriced restaurants in Fada, and they have a pretty chewy pepper steak.
- Les Caraibes – moderately priced. Les Caraibes offers some of the best fries in Fada, as well as good grilled fish, but be prepared to wait a long time for your food.
- Ben Nevis– moderately priced. This place stole the chef from Les Caraibes, so food is good, and there is dancing next door
Street food and snacks Edit
- Bissap stand right outside the STMB gare.
- Curon is a frozen lemonade-type drink sold in sachets.
- The meat guy outside the internet café is good
- Lait du Gourma yogurt is always nice.
There are plenty of buvettes, but one of the nicest would have to be La Plage, not because their drinks are cold but because they’re located at the beach.
- Drew’s House (free): There is no electricity or running water, but there is a nice indoor shower space as well as a guest room complete with a bed, mattress, sheets, a pillow, and its own entrance. If you want to do something to pay his family back for their kindness, they really appreciate gifts of fish. Also, you can buy Miel du Gourma from his mom’s stand.
- Auberge Dieumoagu (4000-7000 CFA with fan and shared bathrooms): By far, Fada's nicest, well-managed, hostel. The traditional and artistic decorations made by a local artist make it the nicest small hostal I have seen in Burkina. It is composed of 4 big clean huts with fans and electricity, with a small restaurant and a nice paillotte. Local drummers perform there for a small fee (5000 CFA) and the owner, a gourmantche traditionalist, organizes wild trips in villages near Fada (possibility to rent a motorcycle). It is located near the barrage, right beside the SIM protestant church, 50 metres from the paved road to Ouagadougou E-mail: [email protected], Web:  Call MD to +226 70 70 99 92.
- TP (4000 CFA with fan, 6000 CFA with A/C): This is your typical Burkinabè hotel space: it’s not too dirty or too clean, and the toilet in your room might not always work, but hey, it’s got a bathroom with a mirror and running water, and it’s more or less conveniently located.
- Auberge La Belle Etoile [formerly dead link] (c.5000 CFA a double): Located on the road to Ouaga, 5 rooms with a fan, a paillotte in the courtyard and common shower/toilet. Quite clean. If the owner, Alfred Ouoba, aka l'ambassadeur du Gourma, a "young and dynamic Burkinabé" (ako Guide du Routard) is there, he can give you very good advice on what to do in Fada. Contact: by mail [email protected] or phone 00226770809, website 
- Mariam Juali Catholic Mission (not expensive): This quiet and peaceful place is on the road to Pama, close to the city limit, thus relatively far from the more happening parts of town. There are gardens there and a conference room. (Tel +226 40 77 01 60)
- Hotel Panache (probably the most expensive in Fada): Held by a Syrian family, it is certainly the best hotel in Fada, but totally overpriced due to lack of competition (count on 20-30,000 CFA). It has a swimming pool though and it's possible to eat at night if you order by noon. www.panachehotel.com 
- Hotel du 11 Décembre on the right side of the road to Niamey
- Guesthouse of the Botanical Garden Bantia, c. 10 km S of Fada on the road to Pama, some comfortable and clean roundhuts in the countryside, next to the botanical garden (+226 70 30 24 76, c. 5000 CFA)
Post Office Edit
Open M-F 07:30 – 12:00 and 15:00 – 17:00
- Le Cyber Jeunes. It’s air-conditioned, the help is nice, and it’s inside a buvette. Hours: 09:00-13:00, 16:00-20:00 Monday-Friday, 10:00-20:00 Saturday. 500 CFA for 15 minutes, plus 250 CFA for each additional 15 minutes.
- inside "La Poste"
"Le Cyber la poste" Post Office in front of the market
When the lunch bell rings at Dano C primary school in Ioba, Burkina Faso, the students fill their plates in the lunchroom. Cabbage leaves and onion whet their appetites. The nutritious meals fuel good school performance and good health. And it all comes from the school garden. The students and teachers manage a 1,000-square-metre garden, where they grow tomatoes, onions, lettuce, sorrel, eggplant, and more. Vegetables are part of the “protective” food group, helping to prevent diseases by providing vitamins and iron. Gardening tasks don’t impact learning hours, but the garden is a great place for learning, making science and math lessons more concrete.
The bell rings, signalling that it’s midday at Dano C primary school. Sandrine, a student in CM1 (the fifth year of study), takes her plate to the lunchroom. Cabbage leaves and onion make a mound on her plate and the delicious smell of the vegetables whets her appetite. The 11-year-old says, “With this, I don’t go home anymore [to eat]. So I enjoy reviewing my lessons.”
The 500 students at Dano C primary school benefit from the abundance of their 1,000-square-metre school garden. Dano C is one of 246 schools in the province of Ioba, in the South-West region of Burkina Faso, about 290 kilometres from the capital city, Ouagadougou.
Zoumana Fofana is the principal. He says the garden began four years ago and helps to improve students’ health and academic performance. He adds that students have been sick less often since the launch of the garden, and that malnutrition has been avoided. In addition, there are virtually no school dropouts thanks to the garden vegetables that supplement the school lunch.
Mr. Fofana calls the school garden the “laboratory where lessons in observation and language are held.” This is one reason why he believes the garden has contributed to good academic results.
Abdon Da is the head nurse of the medical centre that serves students at Dano C primary school, and he agrees with Mr. Fofana. Before the school started the lunch canteen and garden, more than 100 students visited the health centre each month. Youth were afflicted with diarrhea, dysentery, gastric ulcers, and malaria. But since the school started including vegetables from the garden in the lunch, the health centre has seen fewer young clients.
Nurse Da says that vegetables are part of the “protective” food group. They providing the vitamin A and iron that adolescents need.
In most rural families in Burkina Faso, children don’t eat breakfast, so school lunch is important. The plan is to increase the diversity of the meal and insist on a balanced mix of foods and nutrients. These benefits encourage teachers and students to invest time and energy in the school garden.
The students grow tomatoes, onions, lettuce, sorrel, eggplant, and other vegetables. These are mainly eaten by the students themselves. But they also grow lettuce to sell, which provides extra income to cover repairs and other expenses for the garden.
Principal Fofana says it wasn’t easy to start the garden project. He recalls the difficulties: “Some parents didn’t understand the value of the school garden. For them, their child comes to school to learn to read, not to engage in manual labour.”
But he is happy that few parents remain critical of the project. He notes that “the idea of a school garden has been discussed with the partners,” including parent associations, teachers, and the school management committee.
Ouattara Siaka is responsible for garden production. He says the students are organized into groups of 15 to 20 for morning and evening watering, tasks that don’t encroach on learning hours.
All the teachers recognize that the school garden helps with learning, making many subjects more concrete, particularly science, math, and language. Thus, the garden helps achieve academic success and transforms learning from the theoretical to the practical.
Samsoudine Barry is a classmate of Sandrine, but one year ahead, in CM2. He is proud of their garden, saying, “With the gardening, I learn to love working the land. Also, I better understand certain lessons when the teacher takes us to the garden for experiments.”
This article was produced with the support of the Government of Canada through the project “Promoting health, sexual and reproductive rights, and nutrition among adolescents in Burkina Faso (ADOSANTE).” The ADOSANTE project is led by a consortium including Helen Keller International, Marie Stopes-Burkina Faso (MS/BF), Farm Radio International, the Centre d’information de Conseils et de Documentation sur le Sida et la Tuberculeuse (CICDoc), and the Réseau Afrique Jeunesse Santé et Développement (RAJS).