Libraries on wheels help to sustain literacy skills in Burkina Faso’s rural population

The Neer-Tamba project is scaling literacy in Burkina Faso and is mobilizing it in style.

The Resilient Food Systems (RFS) project in Burkina Faso has an overarching goal – to improve living conditions and incomes for rural households affected by poverty and food insecurity in a sustainable way. This means that sustainability is fundamental across all RFS activities and the Participatory Natural Resource Management and Rural Development Project (Neer-Tamba Project), which comprises RFS Burkina Faso, is taking longevity to the streets in the form of mobile libraries.

With support from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Government of Burkina Faso is targeting the Northern, Eastern and North Central regions of the country to support food systems and livelihood transformation. With a national literacy rate under 50%, targeting functional literacy among rural populations is an integral part of this shift.

Literacy skills help farmers engage along value chains and with markets to obtain higher incomes for the food they produce. With about 80% of the population working in agriculture, ensuring that smallholders have the skills they need to thrive in markets is a no-brainer.

But practice brings persistence and folks need something to read!

Inspired by an initiative from the Association Tin-Tua, the Neer-Tamba project has launched some decked-out motorcycles that are delivering reading material right to the doors of 896 villages in the project regions.

The books and documents, which are translated into the local Gulmancema and Mooré languages, not only help rural people maintain their literacy skills, but also provide helpful information for lives and farms.

Topics cover everything from crop production to storage, dealing with conflict, health matters and sustainable farming practices. Awa Ouedraogo, a farmer interviewed in a recent documentary short produced by the Government of Burkina Faso and IFAD, especially commended what she learned about composting and its application on her fields.

“This [project] allowed us to improve our reading skills, our household activities and even our fields.” – Awa Ouedraogo, Farmer

The documents are circulated between villages every two weeks as drivers make their rounds. They cost 100 FCFA (about 0.16 USD) to rent and drivers have recorded more than 30 879 documents having been borrowed so far, and the number keeps growing as they are quite popular!

To complement this initiative, the project has facilitated 721 reading clubs in the project area, targeting 72 570 beneficiaries (63% women). Villagers have fostered a community of sharing when it comes to the reading material that is helping them transform their lives, and documents make their way from home to home in each lending period.

In the digital age, gaps are continually emerging in our understanding of how people are able to access information, especially in rural areas. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, and in Burkina Faso, print media is bringing us full circle, one page at a time.


Watch the full documentary from the Government of Burkina Faso and IFAD here:

English closed captions available

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