The rainy season is arriving in Konéan, a village 10 km from the town of Kaya, in the Centre-North region of Burkina Faso. This morning, people are busy working in the fields before the rain comes.
Zénabo Belemviré is a 30-year-old woman who lives the village. She is a farmer and head of the Koob-Tuuman co-operative, which means “working the land” in the local language, Mooré. The co-operative helps women finance their income-generating agricultural activities. It was created by Mrs. Belemviré and today, has fifteen women members.
Mrs. Belemviré has had a difficult life because of poverty. A lack of available finance for her farming activities inspired her to organize a group of women to pool their strengths and resources.
So the Koob-Tuuman co-operative was formed, with each member contributing 500 FCFA (US $0.77) per month.
Mrs. Belemviré says that, in the beginning, the co-operative produced millet, beans, and groundnuts. Under her leadership, the co-operative received training and seeds from the local agricultural extension service.
She explains, “Each member received three kgs of bean seeds. The bean harvest allowed us to accumulate 56,000 FCFA (US$87) in funds to support members’ other activities.”
Through the extension service, the co-operative was also able to officially register as a co-operative. With the registration document, the co-operative was able to obtain a loan from the caisse populaire, a decentralized microfinance institution in Burkina Faso.
The loan inspired the women to create a lending scheme amongst themselves within the co-operative. Loans from the co-operative are repayable over six months with 10% interest. This interest generates funds which allow the co-operative to finance further activities. After a few years, the co-operative expects to fully repay the bank loan and continue lending to members using their own funds.
Kadi Sawadogo is one co-operative member who has already benefitted from a loan. Thanks to the loan, Mrs. Sawadogo now owns a herd of ten goats.
Zenabo Sawadogo, another member, processes and sells groundnut products. She says, “Thanks to the loans, the women of the Koob-Tuuman co-operative have been able to carry out many activities.” She adds these activities include both farming and livestock breeding. Mrs. Sawadogo uses her loan to process groundnuts into paste, oil, and oilcake, and sell the final products.
Thanks to Mrs. Belemviré, the Koob-Tuuman co-operative is improving the living conditions of its members. With their savings, the women care for their families’ health and nutrition and for Mrs Belemviré, the co-operative is a source of pride.
She says, “’I am proud to lead this cooperative. It is my wish to see women flourish.”
For Mrs. Belemviré, the co-operative is more than a lending tool. It is a way for women to help themselves, their families, their communities, and ultimately, all of Burkina Faso.
She explains, “For me it is a challenge … to be taken up at all costs to convince the community of the importance of women in the development of the country.”
It is also an opportunity for Mrs. Belemviré to show her community the power of women in leadership, and to be a role model for other women.
She says, “I consider myself a role model because the other women look to me to help them. I was able to make them understand the merits of our association, they believed in me, and I am proud of that.”
Mrs. Belemviré believes that it’s important for women to dare to take on positions of leadership.
She says, “I urge other women to fight, to commit themselves to the development of their community, and to the wellbeing of their family.”
This resource was produced for the VIMPlus project. ViMPlus is part of USAID’s Resilience in the Sahel Enhanced (RISE) program, which supports vulnerable communities in Burkina Faso and Niger to effectively prepare for and manage recurrent crises and pursue sustainable pathways out of poverty.
Photo: From right to left, Kadi Sawadogo, Zénabo Sawadogo, and Zénabo Belemviré, head of the cooperative. Credit: Sita Diallo Traoré.