DESIRé MARIE YAMEOGO

Burkina Faso,

Over the last decade, Desire has turned the traditional activity of beekeeping into a modern, vibrant, environmentally sound, and profitable industry that provides rural populations with a new level of economic potential. From this initial, hard-won success, Desire is bringing his comprehensive approach to modernizing other local industries.

This profile below was prepared when Desiré Marie Yameogo was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.

INTRODUCTION

Over the last decade, Desire has turned the traditional activity of beekeeping into a modern, vibrant, environmentally sound, and profitable industry that provides rural populations with a new level of economic potential. From this initial, hard-won success, Desire is bringing his comprehensive approach to modernizing other local industries.




THE NEW IDEA

Desire has transformed the traditional beekeeping activity into a comprehensive and profitable industry for Burkina Faso and other countries in the Sahel region. Desire saw that the economic potential of the industry could be so much more than it was. 

Combining knowledge from the outside, especially from Europe, with local knowledge, Desire has revitalized beekeeping in the region. Desiree established Research Centers in the rural areas to study local conditions and techniques in order to improve productivity. They also adapt foreign techniques and equipment for local production. The training Centers systematically disseminate the learning within the country and beyond. Desire has also brought in loans for expanding local businesses. He has introduced new products that can be made and sold from beekeeping, including propolis (pharmaceutical benefits), wax, and more. He has created new markets by bringing these new, often export-quality products out to the cities and other countries. 

He is demonstrating that these activities, neglected for a long time for cash crops, have the potential to improve living conditions, especially in the rural areas. When they are trained and equipped, rural actors become professionals and transform these small businesses into real industries. With the promotion of all bee products, Desire offers new job opportunities to communities. He has integrated women in the production, thus breaking down traditional barriers that have prevented their participation in honey collection. 

Through concrete results that show the potential for this new industry to generate steady and sustainable income, the Government has begun funding the development of the sector and adopted the model as an economic alternative in its environmental protection policy and vocational development. 

Desire has started replicating his approach in the cassava and rice sectors with a view to promoting all natural resources for sustainable community economic development.




THE PROBLEM

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world and ranks 183th out of 187 countries in terms of human development. A survey in 2003 estimated that 46.4 percent of households live below the poverty line. The results of the last census in 2006 show that almost 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Peasant farmers still live mainly on subsistence farming and small livestock. Less than 18 percent of the land is arable due to recent droughts and desertification. The main crop is cotton. Farmers’ time is set on agricultural activities that last 4 months and the remaining time is devoted to traditional activities such as food processing, which is a cycle meant to create additional income. Inappropriate infrastructure policy remains a major obstacle to a good performance of the agricultural sector in Burkina Faso. 

Beekeeping is a traditional activity in Burkina Faso. It can generate income when properly done. Bees are also involved in the pollination of many plant species and, therefore, play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity in general. Beekeeping in Burkina Faso, however, fails to play its role as a vector of income generating activities for many reasons. Working methods are rudimentary and have a negative impact on the economy and food security. In fact, people work with traditional hives and use burning straw that put ashes in the honey. This method kills many bees and prevents the colony from renewing properly, which is weakening long-term production. These techniques also cause bush fires and degrade the environment. Hives are often victims of parasites and beekeepers do not master the impact on bees and honey. The marketing of goods is a big challenge due to the lack of security in markets and the poor quality of production. Most producers are left with unsold harvest, which discourages them and causes them to give up beekeeping. 

Faced with these realities and deteriorating social conditions in rural areas, some authorities have recognized the need to develop improved beekeeping and other local activities as ways to enhance and preserve natural resources. However, when analyzed, implemented programs yield failed outcomes. Sometimes this is due to the ignorance of how traditional societies operate - for example, it is commonly believed that women should not participate in or be near to bee-keeping activities as it could leave them barren. Other reasons include inadequate equipment and poor production techniques, ignorance about the effects of climatic conditions and especially the lack of information on the potential of most of agro-ecological zones in Burkina Faso.




THE STRATEGY

Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world and ranks 183th out of 187 countries in terms of human development. A survey in 2003 estimated that 46.4 percent of households live below the poverty line. The results of the last census in 2006 show that almost 80 percent of the population lives in rural areas. Peasant farmers still live mainly on subsistence farming and small livestock. Less than 18 percent of the land is arable due to recent droughts and desertification. The main crop is cotton. Farmers’ time is set on agricultural activities that last 4 months and the remaining time is devoted to traditional activities such as food processing, which is a cycle meant to create additional income. Inappropriate infrastructure policy remains a major obstacle to a good performance of the agricultural sector in Burkina Faso. 

Beekeeping is a traditional activity in Burkina Faso. It can generate income when properly done. Bees are also involved in the pollination of many plant species and, therefore, play an important role in the conservation of biodiversity in general. Beekeeping in Burkina Faso, however, fails to play its role as a vector of income generating activities for many reasons. Working methods are rudimentary and have a negative impact on the economy and food security. In fact, people work with traditional hives and use burning straw that put ashes in the honey. This method kills many bees and prevents the colony from renewing properly, which is weakening long-term production. These techniques also cause bush fires and degrade the environment. Hives are often victims of parasites and beekeepers do not master the impact on bees and honey. The marketing of goods is a big challenge due to the lack of security in markets and the poor quality of production. Most producers are left with unsold harvest, which discourages them and causes them to give up beekeeping. 

Faced with these realities and deteriorating social conditions in rural areas, some authorities have recognized the need to develop improved beekeeping and other local activities as ways to enhance and preserve natural resources. However, when analyzed, implemented programs yield failed outcomes. Sometimes this is due to the ignorance of how traditional societies operate - for example, it is commonly believed that women should not participate in or be near to bee-keeping activities as it could leave them barren. Other reasons include inadequate equipment and poor production techniques, ignorance about the effects of climatic conditions and especially the lack of information on the potential of most of agro-ecological zones in Burkina Faso.




THE PERSON

Very early, Desire was aware of rural poverty and the need to undertake initiatives so that the situation can be changed. Inspired by Thomas Sankara, he has always been active in youth organizations for the pursuit of social justice and the rejection of fate. At 17, he developed small activities like selling grilled meat to pay for his school fees and for his brothers and sisters. At the end of his training as a German teacher in 1989, in Abidjan, he turned down an interesting position with a good salary for another job in his village with a very small salary because the position in the village would allow him to be there and achieve his ambition of finding solutions to the problems his community was facing. 

 

While he was a student, his teacher promised to find him a pen pal to motivate him so that he would improve his school performance. This was going to be the beginning of a strong friendship with a Frenchman with whom he corresponded for 20 years before having the opportunity to go to France and meet him. His friend made him discover beekeeping, helped him install his first hives and put him in contact with the Federation of beekeepers in France and Germany. Starting from simply wanting to make a living so that he could continue to live in his poor, rural community, Desire began with his own beekeeping work. 

 

During another trip to France and Germany, in June 1999, Desire met professional beekeepers and learned that beekeeping can be an economic development tool. He decided to share his experience with other beekeepers in his village, which led to the birth of Wend Puiré Association.




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