Nelly Bassily | June 11, 2012
Habibou Ouedraogo is the president of a women’s group called Nongtaba. She lives in Rapadama V4, a village in central Burkina Faso. She and a handful of women created this farmers’ group thirty years ago. It now has over 100 members. Ms. Ouedraogo says, “There were 10 of us at the start. We went to see the authorities to request a field for women. They gave us two hectares.”
In 2011, Nongtaba, which literally means “love one another” in the Mooré language, was the first women’s group in the country to obtain a certificate of land ownership. The certificate brings some benefits and rights, and does provide some security. But it does not have the same status as a land title, which gives ownership. Awa Kaboré is the group’s vice-president. She says, “We care about our certificate because it is a document that provides immunity against those who would take our land.”
Now the group can produce in peace on land that Ms. Ouedraogo describes as “very fertile.” The women produce sorghum, beans and groundnuts, which they sell in the local market. The sales income is placed in a common fund, which is used to provide loans to members for their small businesses in the dry season. The profits range from 35,000F CFA (around US $70) for a poor year to 100,000F CFA (around US $190) in a good season. But the women think their plot is too small. Awa Ouedraogo is the village councilor, and a member of Nongtaba. She explainss, “Given our large number, we would need at least six hectares.” So, each winter the women lease land.
Despite the lack of space, the women of Nongtaba admit that they occupy a privileged position. In the region and throughout much of Burkina Faso, women rarely own land. Rose-Marie Sandwidi is an engineer who specializes in land issues. She explains the reasons for discrimination against women: “Land is property that is passed from father to son. Women’s inheritance poses problems.” She explains that men are reluctant to give land to women because they are afraid that the land would leave the family in the case of a divorce.
The history of Nongtaba is partly explained by the way the village came into existence. The government built Rapadama V4 and dozens of similar villages from scratch in the 1970s. The villages were established in response to a famine. The government relocated thousands of hungry villagers to the unused lands of the Volta valley. Land was not allocated by the traditional authorities, as is common in the rest of the country. This meant that women were able to acquire land. Ms. Ouedraogo confirms: “Women were involved in all stages of the process. Before, it was impossible that a woman could raise land issues.”
Now the group is looking for extra finances to purchase improved seeds and other inputs. The women of Nongtaba are convinced that they can improve their daily lives through agriculture.