Reinforcing social cohesion through socio-economic opportunities and regenerative practices in Burkina Faso

Prolonged crisis characterized by massive forced displacement is the setting for DRC Burkina Faso ‘Sahel Urban Regeneration Initiative for Displaced People’ (SAHURI) project. The project was running from September 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021 in peri-urban areas of the city of Kaya and has empowered IDPs and host communities to work together and develop pathways to durable solutions, building on both economic, social and environmental pillars.

The impact of global climate change varies among regions, income groups, classes and gender. People in poor and vulnerable communities are disproportionally impacted by environmental degradation – a consequence of climate change and lacking knowledge on how to apply adaptation strategies. Displaced people, furthermore, tend to have less access to resources such as land, credit, agricultural inputs and economic knowledge that could enhance their capacity to adjust to environmental challenges caused by climate change. These people and their host communities are in great need of adaption strategies to help address the growing environmental risks.

Kaya in Burkina Faso hosts a large number of IDPs – which has caused almost a doubling of the population in the community. A significant pressure, which has depleted livelihoods opportunities, both putting pressure on the environment, created as source of community tension as well as caused waste management practices to fail.

The project’s overall objectives were to rebuild communities’ human, natural, financial, physical and social capital in a sustainable manner, strengthen the capacity of municipal authorities as well as agricultural and social extension services to deliver increased and improved public services, and leverage the learning while implementing this innovative project. The project lines up with DRC’s overall strategy as it empowers and include vulnerable communities who are affected by climate shocks and conflicts.

The SAHURI project applied innovative approaches including regenerative practices to promote socio-economic integration and social cohesion among communities through good natural resource management, waste management as well as socio-economic and livelihood recovery.

Environment and climate adaptation

Solar-driven well, compost and vegetable garden

The construction of a solar-driven well and the development of a 1-hectare vegetable garden are major achievements of the project because they allow the beneficiaries to have access to resources and means of production. Both host communities and IDPs use these vegetable gardens, thus strengthening the bonds of solidarity and better host community integration. The gardens further constitute a source of new income for the communities. 

The development of the vegetable gardens and the strengthening of their capacity have enabled beneficiaries to develop sustainable skills in vegetable production as well as in the production of pesticide and organic compost. By working in this direction, the project has had an impact not only in allowing 60 people, including internally displaced persons, to have access to these resources but also in preventing potential conflicts that could arise.  

"My name is Sawadogo Bibata, I come from Dablo,  we thank DRC for the help they have given us. Now, thanks to the establishment of the market garden. we have learned to grow tomatoes, cabbage and onions. Thanks to this activity our food situation will improve. and we will practice what we have learned"

 

VSLAs

The establishment of VSLAs and the development of a vegetable growing area are supporting factors of integration, social cohesion and financial autonomy. The project set up four Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) to promote savings mobilization and access to credit for 102 women from displaced and host communities. This initiative has mobilized a collective savings of more than 5 million CFA francs between February and December 2021 for the self-financing of income generating activities. Through the VSLA initiative, the solidarity and the social cohesion between the displaced and host community have been strengthened. 

"My name is Roumba Patinba, I am a member of a VSLA in sector 4 of Kaya. I have to say the the AVEC helps us a lot. At first, we didn't know that money could be saved because we used to spend our money randomly but today, thanks to VSLA and the financial education training we received, we are able to save money".

 

Waste management

The project has also enabled the development of concrete actions in favor of the collection, treatment and recovery of household waste. Through the partnership with the town hall and two local associations, environmental watch committees have been set up in the 7 districts of the city of Kaya to raise awareness among the population of the sectors on solid waste management and to initiate actions to preserve the environment. 

"My name is Pafadnam Tiiga, I come from Dablo. We have benefited from a hygiene awareness session with DRC. Since we had the sensibilisaition we keep all our utensils clean and we clean the common spaces, especially our toilets. The sensibilisation has helped us a lot, especially in terms of hygiene and health, because our diseases have decreased".

Social Impact for beneficiaries  

The SAHURI project has created a good dynamic for social integration between the communities (IDPs and hosts). The mobilization of savings and access to credit has allowed women to develop IGAs, which help the women support themselves and their families and contribute to the local economy.   

The participants express their satisfaction with the training and awareness-raising activities that have been carried out in terms of hygiene, financial inclusion, organic production and the bio-circular economy. The partners are pleased with the fact that these changes could occur in such a short time, as highlighted by several testimonies.   

"My name is Quedraogo Agnes, I am 31 years old, and I live in sector 7 of Kaya. The VSLA were very useful because they allowed us to solve some of our problems. Before, none of us had a job, but with the savings and loans we got through VSLA, some of us have started some IGA. I used to do do saponification a little bit and with the credit i earn here I acquired equipment like a mold and a table and machines to strengthen my activity. My life has changed for the better financially because my income has increased, and I can even ensure the schooling of my children and buy medicines so AVEC has helped me a lot. I thank DRC for the help and ask for more help".

Social cohesion

Innovation and perspective

Innovations in this effort includes the designed change in production methods, notably with the promotion of ecological agriculture and permaculture as well as the use of renewable energy to promote access to water. Building in bio-circular economy design thinking into the implementation strategy has enabled better protection of the environment through the search for solutions aimed at recovering waste or reconstituting natural assets. At large the involvement of IDPs and host communities has been central to the successes of SAHURI as context relevance and sustainability rely on people’s involvement and capacity building. Efforts were community based and benefitted via strengthened social cohesion.

Learning and adapting while implementing

The SAHURI project provided some important learnings that can be transferred to other contexts, and also projects with larger scale. A central lesson of the SAHURI project has been the benefit of a flexible design, to be able to adapt to (i) the gradual build-up of knowledge of the context and community and (ii) the changing needs as they arise. The realities of the field, such as mistrust between displaced and host communities and barriers for women’s engagement, a focus of this project, led to important redesigns, generating better results. It was only through bringing people together around common goals (environmental, economic and social) that trust was created among the communities. The value of holistic intervention – incorporating environmental focus- was also central to the success of this project, making sure that people could benefit from a complete package of activities, enabling a better impact on the different components of their life: human, natural, financial, physical and social. Moreover, value of capacity building of staff on the bio-circular economy from the onset of project implementation is also worth considering to better and more comprehensively build appropriate. 

"When we first started out activities, there were distinct sub-groups when we met at our meetings. Some women even dropped out because they didn't believe in it. Through the AVEC activities, tensions, misunderstandings and mistrust have been replaced by cohesion, trust and solidarity among us. Today, when we get together, a person outside the group can no longer distinguish one IDP from the others" says Defiance an community member.

Learning was an integral part of implementation as were comprehensive consideration and effort giving to involve people at the local level already in the project design. Although some compromise was inescapable regarding the technical aspects, involving the local community proved very beneficial to the project’s success. For projects with a holistic aim, benefit from extended project implementation time. With a longer planning and implementation horizon, projects of this nature can leverage better results including positive environmental footprint and capital gains within the communities. years. An important perspective for future projects is therefore to aim for a longer planning and implementation horizon.

Economic recovery