Binta, a 56-year-old mother of six, lives in the remote rural village of Liouligou, in the flat and dry centre of Burkina Faso, West Africa. When her husband passed away four years ago, she thought she wouldn’t be able to keep providing for her children:
“When my husband died I feared for the future. He used to provide for us. He made sure we had a home, and food to eat. His death was a very difficult time for me,” she remembers.
Around that time Binta joined an agricultural project implemented by Self Help Africa in the area.
She received training and improved seeds, which enabled her to grow more but also to diversify her crops. Today she is growing rice, peanuts, beans, cabbage, local cereals such as millet, and onions.
In just three years, she has quadrupled her income from onions alone. This is in no small part down to the onion storage house that was built in her community by the project.
As she moved her onions from her home and into a dry, ventilated storage building, her onions now have a longer shelf-life:
“Before, my onions would go bad quickly and I had to sell them immediately. With the new storage house, I can keep the onions until the price on the market is high, and make more income from their sale.”
This positive outlook coupled with hard work means she is now growing enough food for a whole year and is providing for her family:
“In the past we didn’t grow enough food to last for the whole year and had to ask other people for help. Today, I grow enough food to feed my family all year round.”
Recently, a hole in the roof led to a leak in the storage building but Binta continues to remain positive and aspires to fix it before the next rains.
With the extra income, Binta was also able to invest in livestock: she now owns three goats, two sheep and 70 chickens. Owning livestock gives her more resilience when times get tough, as she can make an income from the sale of her animals if her family is in need.
The impact of this new income has had far reaching benefits for Binta and her family. While she put a new tin roof over her children’s heads – which she says is a vast improvement on their previous small, thatched home – she also has the means to keep her children in good health and in education.
This is probably the improvement Binta is most happy about. While only 15% of girls in Burkina Faso receive an education, Binta is proud to offer her daughters an education she never had herself.
“It hurts me that I didn’t go to school, I don’t want my children to be like me. Nowadays school is very important,” she says. “Because they receive an education, they will be able to take care of themselves when they grow up.”
Through her own efforts and determination Binta has reaped many benefits from the project and lifted herself out of poverty, but there are still set backs. As rainy seasons become shorter in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the dry soil in Liouligou cries out for rainfall.
But Binta remains optimistic and hopes that, if the project keeps supporting her and her community, she will be able to cope with the challenges ahead.