Location: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Africa
Weather Conditions:95F (35C)
There is so much to share about our last exciting week in Burkina. During our stay in Sabou, which is where we left off our story since our last full update, we were also able to visit a number of villages surrounding the city. One of the villages we traveled to a day after our arrival was a “deep village” is one that has no electricity, no sewer, no stores, and water is provided by a hand-pumped well. In other words, people are living directly with the land. Once again, we were warmly welcomed and learned a great deal about the celebrations and challenges of living and learning in a deep Burkina village. The thatch-roofed classroom we visited was composed of about 70 – 80 students on their the best behavior ☺. Due to the scarcity of water in this village, each student had a water can underneath her seat for washing and drinking. The contrast between this educational context and those common in the United States is striking. We have much to learn.
Next, we were off to the town of Koudougou by motorcycle. Koudougou is the third-largest settlement in Burkina and is approximately 100km from Quagadougou. The dirt road, African landscape, and the fellow travelers (goats, pigs, donkeys, chickens, people, and cows) provided for some exciting riding! While in Koudougou, we were able to visit the local university, which is much different than the University of Minnesota! We were fortunate enough to visit the computer lab where students were learning English; so, we interviewed two students on their thoughts about education and sustainability. We also visited the library, industrial technology classroom and the auditorium. The auditorium seats 600, but normally has 1,000+ students present for class. That’s right. Students stand when no seats are available. They come to class hours ahead of time to just to have a seat, and if they are lucky, to get a spot in the front row.
Charlie realizing two of his teeth are loose after he dumped his motorcycle for the second time. (Koudougou)
The motorcycle trip back to Sabou was an adventure for Charlie. As he attempted to brake for cows crossing the road, he dumped his motorcycle… again! Thankfully, Charlie was wearing a helmet as he went face-to-face with the ground: truly earth(ducation), wouldn’t you say? Although he knocked two teeth loose, Charlie got back on his bike and we continued on our journey. For the rest of the ride, Charlie’s bike had no left front light and the rear taillight was hanging from the back, so the team had a good laugh. It was the perfect mini-adventure for Expedition 1!
Elder and village sharing their story on education and sustainability. (Village outside of Koudougou)
The following day, we visited two villages in order to interview elders on their thoughts about living with the land, the importance of education, and the intersections between these two topics in Burkina. As the elders shared their thoughts with us, most of the village members gathered to watch and listen. Just outside the village of Cassou, Romaric took us to see his 240-acre parcel of land that he is working to preserve. An elder in the community gave it to him because he believed in Romaric’s mission of stopping deforestation and using the land in sustainable ways. When Romaric is in the United States, he has friends who work to make his mission a reality. It is Romaric’s hope that in the future he can build a resort on this land where people could visit a natural setting while enjoying the beautiful country of Burkina Faso.
The Burkinabe have been showering us with gifts. After our visit to the first village, we were presented with a chicken to take with us. After the second village visit, we were given another two chickens. Then, after the visit to Romaric’s land, we were given another two chickens. Yes, we were given five chickens in one day! We put these chickens in the back of our vehicle and headed back to Sabou where Haruna, our driver extraordinaire, butchered and cooked them. We ate a very delicious, very large meal that evening. Thank you so much, Burkina!
Charlie and Aaron setting up the BGAN satellite connected to the computer to send out field report using Fenix lamps. (Sabou)
We returned to Sabou quite late, so we needed to utilize the powerful lighting from our sponsor, Fenix in order to send out the daily updates with the BGAN satellite. Because very few places have electricity in Burkina, we not only used the lights to support us in sending for out pictures and audio updates to the Basecamp team at UMN, but we used our headlamps and flashlights every evening to find our way to the bathroom, to read before bed, and to simply see each other when we sat around a table. Thank you, Fenix!
We have learned many things about sustainability on this expedition through the examples shared with us by Romaric and his friends. They are doing amazing humanitarian projects here in Burkina that illustrate the power of individuals in making a difference. For example, Romaric’s friend and our gracious host in Sabou, Alissan, began a sustainable garden outside Sabou three years ago. We were able to visit his garden, which is located by only access to water – a dam. This garden employs around 100 people who travel by foot or bicycle up to 10 kilometers each day to work there. By creating these important jobs, Alisan is able to help the gardeners’ families by sending their children to school. The gardeners grow onions, lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, and also experiment with non-native seeds. A millet fence surrounds the entire garden to keep animals away.
We left Sabou in order to make our way to the city of Bobo. Bobo, Burkina Faso’s second largest city with a population of 460,000+, functions as the commercial center of Burkina, with Ouagadougou functioning as the political center. As we drove southwest for 3.5 hours to get to Bobo, the landscape changed dramatically as we left the desert in the north and moved into the savanna climate in the center and south of the country. Our travels again were adventure-packed as we had the first of three flat tires on our vehicle. Yes, we had three flat tires in the next two days of travel on the same rear left wheel!
While in Bobo we visited a group of women who are producing shea butter. The shea butter is produced from nuts that come from the Shea tree. The nuts are washed and ground down before the residue is removed and filtered by hand until it is 100% pure. Romaric has been working with these women for three years to increase the efficiency and quality of packaging, labeling, and shipping of shea butter as well as to improve filtration processes for purity and quality control. Twelve of the fourteen women in this group are widows and use their salary to pay for their children’s education.
Also while in Bobo we visited the Grande Mosquée. The mosquée was built in 1893 using Sahel style mud architecture with cone-shaped towers and wooden struts that act as scaffolding. We experienced an ethereal feeling as we received a tour of the building while numerous people were praying.
Just outside of Bobo we had the good fortune of meeting with an elder in his village while he sat in front of a statuesque tree. He not only shared his insightful thoughts on education and sustainability, but he described how this tree, a Baobab tree that is 18 meters in diameter, had saved their village from an invasion. The elder invited us inside, yes inside, the tree in order to show us where people from his family had hidden while the honeybees scared off the invaders.
We left Bobo and stayed in the village of Banfora. We arrived in Banfora during a beautiful sunset and were able to stay in thatch roof huts with mosquito netting. It was an amazing African experience, except that Aaron got bit on his leg from a spider – ouch! He thought the swelling would go away, but after three days when the bite had not improved, he visited the health center in Ouagadougou to get some medicine.
Charlie and Aaron setting up Skype to video chat with the Institute on the Environment at UMN. (Sabou)
The next morning we left Banfora and experienced flat tires #2 and #3 within 20 minutes of each other! Without any additional spare tires, we returned to Bobo for three hours in order to pick up two new tires and two additional spares Haruna located for our 5- hour trip back to Ouagadougou. Because of our bad luck of three blown tires, we stopped in Sabou on our return to Ouagadougou to Skype in to a presentation for the Institute on the Environment. Using our new BGAN satellite system, we were able to video chat with people in Minnesota and share an overview of Expedition 1.
Upon our return to Ouagadougou, we began to work on this final field update and began packing for our return trip to the United States.
Expedition 1 has been a monumental success. Earthducation’s goal is to gather the stories and perspectives of people in climate hot spots around the world around the topics of education and sustainability. Here are some data about what Team Earthducation has accomplished during Expedition 1: Burkina Faso.
Miles Traveled: 1,075+ Interviews Captured: 35+ Gigabytes of Media Collected: 625 Photos Captured: 4,167 Videos Captured: 1,366 Hours, Minutes, and Seconds of Video Captured: 24 Hours, 51 Minutes, 57 Seconds Friends Made: 15,230,000 (population of Burkina Faso) Languages Spoken: 4 (English, French, Moori, German) Chickens Received as Gifts: 5 Chickens Eaten: 25+ Spider Bites: 2 Teeth Loosened: 2 Motorcycles Wrecked: 2 Toenails Broken: 1 Camera Lenses Broken: 1 Megabyes of Data sent via Satellite: 450+ Malaria Pills Taken: 45 Mosquito Bites: 70+ Flat Tires: 3 Laughs: Uncountable Romaric saying, “I love this place, man!”: Too many to count ☺!
Miles Traveled: 1,075+
Interviews Captured: 35+
Gigabytes of Media Collected: 625
Photos Captured: 4,167
Videos Captured: 1,366
Hours, Minutes, and Seconds of Video Captured: 24 Hours, 51 Minutes, 57 Seconds
Friends Made: 15,230,000 (population of Burkina Faso)
Languages Spoken: 4 (English, French, Moori, German)
Chickens Received as Gifts: 5
Chickens Eaten: 25+
Spider Bites: 2
Teeth Loosened: 2
Motorcycles Wrecked: 2
Toenails Broken: 1
Camera Lenses Broken: 1
Megabyes of Data sent via Satellite: 450+
Malaria Pills Taken: 45
Mosquito Bites: 70+
Flat Tires: 3
Romaric saying, “I love this place, man!”: Too many to count ☺!
A big thank you to Romaric! Without Romaric, the team would still be lost in a thatch hut somewhere! His family and connections with people throughout the entire country were the foundation of this successful expedition.
Romaric’s connections have prompted us to create a new feature on our website entitled, “Honorary Expedition Members.” The honorary expedition members for Expedition 1: Burkina Faso are Haruna, Justin, Francoise, Uncle Tambi, Simone, Sanou, Madi, and Alisan. Thank you to all!
Expedition 1 is only the beginning of the Earthducation project. We have six more expeditions and six more continents to explore! Don’t forget to vote for the upcoming European hotspot.
Remember, the primary goal of the Earthducation project is to create a global narrative of the diverse intersections between education and sustainability. The only way we will be able to accomplish this is with your help – you can browse through the EnviroNetwork to view current perspectives. Please share your thoughts! We will be adding new features and theme questions during each expeditions.
Last but not least, a big “thank you” to the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota! Your support has made this expedition possible.