by Mary Duvall
When you read the word “future,” what comes to mind? 10 years? 20 years? 50 years?
While visiting with women in Burkina Faso last week, I gained a new perspective about how different people view that word.
I met with women in the village of Piaga, a village of approximately 1,239 people in a country with a life expectancy teetering at 53 years old and an average annual household income of $510.
Habbanaye: The Goats That Keep on Giving
Noali Timbende, a small-statured woman with a loud, booming voice, told us about how — with the support of LWR — the women in her village have recently come together as a group to improve their situation through a system called habbanaye: a system that involves raising, selling and passing along goats to increase a family’s income.
When the project began, Piaga women identified the village’s 50 poorest women, and then of those 50, the 12 most vulnerable. The poorest of the poor.
“We have just started and we’ll grow,” Noali proclaimed. “But we started with the women who were most in need of the support, most impoverished.”
With the support of LWR, the women’s group provided two female goats and one male to each of those 12 women. They also received training on how to care for and breed the goats. Once these livestock produce offspring, each woman will bring one female and one male back to the group to be distributed to the next woman on the list. They have just started, but they plan to distribute goats to all members of the women’s group. It’ll take time.
As we went around the village, women shyly but eagerly showed us their goats, glowing about how quickly the goats got pregnant, or showing off the newborn kids.
However, when I asked about their hopes and dreams for the future, they couldn’t think beyond a year or two, when they might have a larger herd of goats, with an increased income from the sale of the goats.
After thanking the women, we loaded into the cars and bounced down the bumpy road to visit another project in a city called Fada N’Gourma.
When LWR is No Longer Needed
This second project is one we’ve talked about before, where LWR supported a women-led dairy. Because the women of the dairy were doing so well, LWR and the women of Fada N’Gourma decided that they could operate on their own, without our support.
As we sat in the courtyard of the dairy, one of the women working there, Penuma Maiga, told us about how far the women had come and how much difference this dairy had made in their lives.
Prior to the project, the women working at the dairy kept all of their records in a book and had no backup generator to keep the milk and yogurt chilled when the power would go out. But with the support of LWR, they have received computer training, so all of their records are now computerized. They have a generator, which kicks on automatically when the power goes out, so there is no risk to the quality of their product.
Expressions of Gratitude
Penuma Maiga has a message to supporters like you.
“We want to thank you. You’ve helped us. You’ve helped our husbands. The women in this dairy are able to afford school fees for their children. The whole family’s needs are taken care of, all because of the support of LWR.”
As I sat there under the tree, inhaling the fresh, honest smell of a dairy, I was struck by the sense of future that the women of the dairy had. The future was no longer a matter of months or, at most, a year. The future meant many, many years into the future. It was limitless. And it was evident in the confidence and strength that radiated from these women.
My greatest hope for the women of Piaga, the women just starting out raising goats, is that they soon have a similar sense of future as the women of the dairy have. That as their goats multiply and reap benefits, their dreams for the future do.
In parts of the world where food supply is precarious, a hearty goat can survive, giving milk that nourishes and sells. $100 is all it takes.