Trainings, role play help Burkina Faso villagers prepare for disasters

  • By Rose Somda, Christian Aid
  • 21/12/2017

Minata Ramde during a simulation exercise in Bagaré, Burkina Faso, September 12, 3017. Photo from Rose Somda.

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In the village of Bagaré, in northern Burkina Faso, rain is increasingly scarce and wilting crops – mostly maize and millet – are turning brown.

“We are worried for the rest of the season, we do not know when the rains will come or stop,” said Pinguedwindé Guibila, the village’s deputy mayor, at a workshop organized by the Zaman Lebidi consortium as part of the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme.

“If the situation does not improve, harvest will fail and many families will not have enough food this year.”

The project seeks to build communities’ resilience to climate change in Burkina Faso by setting up contingency plans – strategic documents that allow for a timely, coordinated and effective response to a disaster or humanitarian crisis in a geographic area.

These documents were set up with support from the national council for emergency relief and rehabilitation (CONASUR).

Through a series of workshops, the project has trained leaders and communities in 13 municipalities on what to do when a disaster strikes.

According to Bakouan Yipénè Florent, head of CONASUR, these plans aim to “strengthen local actors’ capacity to respond to climate variability, and disasters”.

They were set up following participatory methods – such as interviews and focus groups – and validated by local authorities.

CONASUR and its local representative (CODESUR) organised exercises for communities as well as local officials to put their contingency plans into practice and raise awareness of natural disasters and emergency response.

In the village of Bagaré, for example, the two-day exercise was about drought management – ensuring the community took the right steps in case a drought occurred.  

The first day, participants received a simulated alert for drought in a village, met to assess the situation, and appointed representatives to collect data from the village such as the number of households in need or of dead cattle, and the state of water sources.

The second day, they simulated a distribution of first aid like water and food to disaster victims. Others played the roles of people displaced by drought in their villages.

Trainers discussed the importance of sanitation and health in emergencies, and gave tips on discipline during water and food distribution, to avoid any inefficiency or fights.

During the workshop, it suddenly started to rain, to participants’ joy. “This is a good omen,” said one of them, beaming.

“This exercise is useful for me, as it allows me to know what to do when a disaster strikes,” said Minata Ramde, head of a women’s organization in Bagaré.  

“They teach me that when a disaster arrives, we have to first help those who are more vulnerable and affected.”

“When I return to my village, I’ll organise a meeting to share these lessons with other women,” she added.

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