Partner: Union Provinciale des Producteurs Agricoles
Placement: Improving the management and innovation capacity of farmer union leaders
Burkina Faso may be far away from Catherine Denis’ small hometown of La Pocatière, Quebec, but she has quickly settled into life as a EWB overseas volunteer in the Burkinabé province of Houet.
Cat has been involved with EWB for over five years, beginning when she was an engineering systems design student at the University of Waterloo. Cat had always been interested in EWB’s work overseas, and as a result, went overseas as a short-term volunteer in 2006. When she returned from her four-month placement, Cat was more inspired than ever to share EWB’s innovative approach.
“I wanted to share the perspectives I gained volunteering overseas and the inspiring stories I gained from my placement, so I could help my fellow chapter members feel more connected to Africa,” she notes.
With her proven passion for EWB’s work it is no surprise that Cat recently moved to the economic capital of Burkina Faso, called Bobo Dioulasso, to join EWB’s Agriculture team. Here, EWB is working to help farmers shift from farming for survival to farming as a business. With a business approach to agriculture, farmers are able to increase their crop yields, sell the surplus, and better support their families over the long-term.
Cat is working in partnership with the Union Provinciale des Producteurs Agricoles of the Houet province, which represents an impressive 20,500 farmers. The union is an important partner for EWB as it is responsible for improving access to services and programs to help these farmers gain the business skills to better manage production and cash flows – and earn an income from their crops.
Yet despite the potential of these farmer services, many of them have not evolved fast enough to meet the ever-changing needs of Burkina Faso’s farmers. Cat’s role is to help improve the effectiveness of the union as a whole, so it can better identify and create tailored farmer services.
“I am confident that stronger unions will result in better services for the farmers, which will translate into more productive and profitable farmer groups,” Cat notes.
To make this a reality, Cat is working directly with union staff to help them test new responses to the challenges farmers face – such as a lack of credit or market opportunity – and scale up approaches that are successful. Her training as a system engineer is especially relevant, as she is able to apply her critical problem solving capabilities to identify innovative solutions. '
Cat knows that she is taking a lasting approach to changing the lives of farmers in the Houet province because she is ensuring the union can respond directly and innovatively to their diverse challenges. This is what is so exciting about EWB’s approach in Burkina Faso – just one volunteer like Cat is able to impact the union’s farmers to earn a lasting income from their farms.
“It is extremely motivating to know that together we are strengthening the farmers’ organizational skills to better face the challenges of the agricultural sector,” Cat says.