With drought prevailing in areas bordering the Saharan desert, farmers in Burkina Faso are exploring alternative ways to generate income. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) supports a program that provides training and support to people with ideas that could be transformed into successful business ventures.
Ninety-five percent of the people in Burkina Faso -- a small landlocked African country -- depend on agriculture to earn a living. Koudougou Lamoussa is the father of six children. He was a subsistence farmer, barely surviving on these drought-prone lands bordering the Saharan desert. He strongly believed that there was another way to make a living. He wanted to start his own business. In Burkina Faso, donkey carts had become an affordable and popular way of transporting goods and people. No one was manufacturing them in the village. Koudougou wanted to be the first.
I could never earn enough as a farmer to pay for all my family's needs. I was certain with this kind of metal work, I could earn more money and buy everything we needed.
Koudougou knew little about business. He had no money and no hope of getting a bank loan. Mamadou Sanou, an industrial technologist, helped him.
It's a vicious circle. We can't borrow money so we can't develop our business ideas. We go around in circles and stay eternally poor.
With a USD$1,800 loan, Koudougou bought the materials to make donkey carts for his first batch of customers. After one year, he added four more workers and expanded his business. Now he manufactures desk frames for local schools. Entrepreneurship could spark economic growth by creating new job opportunities. Now, a number of new programs are unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit among the poorest segments of the population. This one in Burkina Faso is known as PAMER. Supported by IFAD, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, it provides farmers with training and support needed to turn ideas -- like this milling operation -- into profitable businesses. These women were encouraged by Koudougou's success. They began to bring the raw paddy to be husked at the new mill. They are now much better off because the rice fetches a higher price on the local market. The profits are small but it makes a huge difference for them.
What we do in this project is awaken the spirit of business. We give people the sense of what an entrepreneur is. After that they say, what I learned gives me the power to do something for myself.
The PAMER project is now being duplicated in other parts of Burkina Faso, with the expectation of assisting more than 2,500 entrepreneurs within three years. James Heer prepared this report for the United Nations.