Friday, July 22, 2011


Rainy season has begun

I think the last time I wrote about the weather I said it had rained a bit, but not enough for people to start planting. What they did do, to get ready for cultivating and planting, was to clean up their fields. When you buy something here, whether it is a pile of tomatoes or loaf of bread, the merchant will put it in a black plastic bag. All winter I have been appalled at the number of these black plastic bags that have been blowing around all over the place. People just drop them on the ground or throw them over their walls as if they were biodegradable and would disappear after a while. The first step in preparing the fields is to go around the field, pick up the bags and burn them. Then, if there are stalks and roots from last year’s crops they are cut out and burned as well.

The next thing is to prepare the soil for the seeds. You can do this the old fashioned way, with dabas, as these ladies are doing here:

A fair number of people in my village have mules and plows, which they can use to cultivate a bit deeper with a lot less human effort. Good neighbors will sometimes loan their plow to friends after they have finished with their field.

After the dirt in the field is loosened, you have plant the seeds. If you look closely in their hands you can see the peanuts these ladies are planting.

After this, you have to wait for the rains. Too much and not enough are both bad.


I mentioned that donkeys are used to pull plows, and showed you a picture of one at work. There seem to be quite a few donkeys around my village. I sometimes hear them braying at night, and often during the day. They seem to be more noisy at some times than at others. I am not sure if it is mothers calling to babies, like the sheep do, or if the noise is a mating call. I had never heard a donkey bray before I came to Burkina Faso, and I don’t know exactly how to describe the sound. First of all, it is not a simple hee-haw like the sound we made as kids. It is incredibly loud and seems like it should be coming from a bigger animal. It almost seems like the poor animal can’t get the sound out without a lot of painful effort.

The donkeys are mostly used to pull two wheeled carts called “charrettes.” The girls who bring me my water use this kind of cart to carry my 200 liters of water. Kids and adults use them to transport the mud bricks used for building and the sand and clay used to make the mud mortar that goes between the bricks. People also use them to haul wood from the bush and things they want to sell at the market. After the kids have delivered the loads, they sometimes have races down the road, standing up in the carts, like charioteers. The donkeys do not have halters or bridles with reins to guide them. The driver carried a switch, cut from some handy tree. If you want to donkey to move to the right, you hit it on the left side, and if you want it to go left, you hit it on the right side. Donkeys are dragged from the court yard by a rope tied to one front leg. They are allowed to wander free after the harvest, but now that things have been planted again, they are staked to the ground with this rope around the leg to some spot far enough away from crops that they can’t get them.

More about black plastic bags

I am happy to report that there are some enterprising ladies in Burkina Faso who have found a use for these ubiquitous black plastic bags. They cut strips from them and weave them into a fabric to make purses and wallets. I wish more people were doing this. It would help clean up the country! Here are some samples, modeled by some of my fellow volunteers:

A Purse

A wallet

A toiletries bag

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