On Friday, January 29, 2010, I had the privilege of attending a launching ceremony in the town of Sabou with the Prime Minister of Burkina Faso, senior government and local officials, the MCC Resident Country Mission, dedicated members of the MCA Board, hundreds of residents of the Sabou Commune, and the senior management team of MCA-Burkina Faso, which is in charge of implementing Burkina Faso’s $481 million MCC compact. The event was vibrant and animated, filled with pertinent skits and musical interludes. Even though we were just an hour south of Ouagadougou, it felt like we were a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the capital city and were truly in the heart of Burkina Faso. The town of Sabou, its residents, and MCA animated the countryside with a truly inspiring and motivating ceremony.
The event marks the start of on-the-ground field activities for two components of the Burkina Faso compact: feasibility studies for the 270 kilometers of primary roads to be constructed under the Roads project and the communication and education campaign surrounding the new national land law and regulations in 17 pilot communes under the Rural Land Governance project. With the complexity and intensity of the demands and deadlines revolving around projects of this size and scope, we often get caught up in Ouagadougou with meetings, workshops, project planning, financial number crunching, and all the necessary management responsibilities. When we stop and take the time to go to the field to visit with program participants, we see firsthand the excitement on their faces about the transformation of their future. We realize just where the real energy is with this compact.
The ceremony was filled with information, speeches, gratitude, theater, and music. It was a perfect mix of formal and informal, ceremonial and artistic, and cultural and educational. Information booths were filled with explanatory visuals and maps of project activities. Experts were on hand to explain the components: roads to be constructed, land conflict resolution techniques, decentralized administrative buildings to be constructed, and other aspects.
The skits were dynamic and filled with appropriate humor on the sensitive subject of land tenure. Even with my extremely limited knowledge of Moor_, one of the local languages of Burkina Faso, it was evident that the audience absorbed from the skits that land laws, regulations, and tools are now in place in Burkina Faso to clarify ambiguous land use situations, such as those between cattle herders and farmers. The theater troupe was able to infuse a touch of comedy into a serious subject and provide the audience with a glimpse into the land conflict resolution mechanisms and positive outcomes that will be possible through the Rural Land Governance project.
The official speeches were inspirational, expressing thanks to the American people and MCC, an understanding of the challenges ahead, and a clear message from the Government of Burkina Faso via Minister Laurent Sédogo from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Water Resources, who said that the MCC compact, will bring about dynamic change, will require a rigorous pace of implementation, and will change the lives of Burkina Fasos disenfranchised, including women.