The Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) look to this year’s annual UNESCO International Literacy Day on September 8 with a positive note: more than 5,300 smallholder farmers received a basic education in reading, writing, and arithmetic through the education project in Burkina Faso. The program exceeded its initial goal of teaching literacy to roughly 5,000 people by summer 2013.
Approximately 7,000 people enrolled in literacy courses in the Bazéga region, more than 6,000 participated in the courses, and more than 5,300 women and men (87.1 percent) successfully completed the courses by passing the final examinations. Women, in particular, benefit from the education project: More than half of the course participants enrolled and of the graduates were female. Kabore Germaine, the wife of one of the cotton farmers from Kuizili and mother of four, explained the advantages: “After two years, I can now read and write Moré. It’s very important for my business to be able to do arithmetic. Now, I can go back and reread the recommendations I get on my family’s health in my notes and pay more attention that my children regularly go to school.” In addition to the courses, all teachers were provided with the opportunity to receive further education and training in pedagogy during the project.
Welthungerhilfe and the non-governmental organization ORGANIC led the project on the ground — in close cooperation with the Provincial Directorate of the Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy (DPEBA) and the cotton company Faso Coton. It has been co-financed by Otto Österreich and Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG).
Originally scheduled to run three years, the program was extended for ten months due to the widespread interest by cotton farmers and commitment by OTTO Austria: “As a company it is important for us to act sustainably, and to offer support on a long-term basis. We consider the education project in Burkina Faso as a first phase in development cooperation in education. We will continue our commitment in 2014 together with the Aid by Trade Foundation–how and in what form it will take shape exactly is currently being explored by the organization’s expert on site,” explains Georg Glinz, Head of Marketing at OTTO Österreich.
Illiteracy has a negative impact on the socio-economical development in many West African countries: In Burkina Faso, roughly 78 percent of the adult population can neither read nor write. At the same time, cotton production is the heart and hope for the country’s economic development because about 18 percent of people live from the cotton production. Education is thus a key factor to establishing sustainable farming practices and therefore improve the living conditions of cotton farmers and their families.