Burkina Faso - Giving something back

Gold miner Burkina Faso Africa by Ollivier Girard CIFOR© Ollivier Girard, CIFOR

Giving something back

Burkina Faso ranks among the poorest countries in the world – assessed as 161st out of 169 countries in the UN’s latest survey of human development.

Fewer than 40% of those aged 15–24 can read. Nearly 17% of children under five die every year. About 82% of Burkina’s 16.7 million population survives on less than US$2 a day. Although nearly 60% of children start primary school, only about 40% manage to complete their basic studies. The statistics tell a sorry story, and hundreds of international development organisations and local associations are on the ground trying to make a difference.

All the big international charities, such as Oxfam, Plan, Save the Children, Water Aid and others, have programmes in Burkina. It is hard to recommend one organisation or action. The first thing to do is to keep your respect for the country uppermost in your mind. Beyond that, as you travel, look out for grass-roots organisations you feel may be making a difference.

One couple, for example, was so moved by a visit to a Burkinabe orphanage that they offered to pay the monthly electricity bill. If you feel you’ve found something you can trust, then by all means set up something on a similarly local scale, or fundraise back at home. If you see an international organisation managing a project you like, such as one in education, health, agriculture or local business, for example, you might also consider a monthly direct debit to the charity.

Development itself can be something of an industry, with agencies seeking funding from international donors at any cost, no matter what may be happening on the ground. Burkina is considered a good aid destination because management tends to be good and the need is great. That doesn’t stop corruption by any means, nor debates about the best way to implement aid.

One argument goes that the best contribution you can make is to spend your money wisely and spur the economy, avoiding aid dependency and stimulating enterprise. Your presence as a spending tourist, investing in arts, craft s, hotel stays, food and transport, will certainly have its impact. The news and views are endless, and the decision will remain personal.

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