Nelly Bassily | May 5, 2008
Civil society in Burkina Faso has been extremely active in denouncing the social impact of soaring food prices, and is now calling for a 72-hour general strike from May 13 to 15. A civil society movement calling itself “La coalition contre la vie chère,” or “Coalition against the high cost of living,” is calling for, among other things, a 25 per cent pay increase, retroactive from January 2001, for all staff in the public, para-public, and private sectors.
The high cost of living has also led trade unions that are part of La coalition contre la vie chère to demand that the government significantly reduce the price of staple foods including rice, millet, maize, beans, salt, sugar and milk.
Faced with several protests that have degenerated into violence, the government agreed that food prices rose unacceptably and announced a three-month suspension of customs duties on imported staple products. But these measures are unsatisfactory in the eyes of protestors and workers.
Mr. Ernest Yoda is President of the Union of Rice Producers of Bagré. He said that rice farmers in this eastern part of Burkina Faso could become self-sufficient in rice if they receive 1 billion FCFA (2.4 million American dollars or 1.5 million Euros) in government subsidies.
Since 2006, nearly 2,000 farmers in the Bagré plains have grown rice on 1,600 hectares of land along the Nakambé River. But the plains have 30,000 hectares of irrigable land. Mr. Yoda insists that the region represents a potential for national self-sufficiency in rice, but there must be the political will to back this plan.
La coalition contre la vie chère was created after protests in several cities in Burkina Faso, in which demonstrators vandalized government offices and burned cars, shops, and gas stations. Trade unions in Burkina Faso previously called for a general strike on April 8 and 9 to demand wage increases, price controls and a decrease in fuel taxes.