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Ouedraogo, a subsistence farmer in the province of Sanmatenga, belonged to the old village development committee, which had the responsibility of connecting the community to the state’s technical services departments.

People didn't believe us at the very beginning. They thought we were joking, they thought we had nothing to say. They said, 'You cannot take the place of God. Only God can know what will happen tomorrow'.

- Ouedraogo Naamsigui , Early warning committee member, Tibtenga.

But without any training, Ouedraogo said they felt uncertain about what information to relate to the government and were often ignored.

Before we got the training, when there was a disaster, we didn't do anything. We were just here waiting.

- Ouedraogo Naamsigui, Early warning committee member, Tibtenga.

The changing world

One of the greatest threats from this ‘changing world’, or Zaman Lebidi as the BRACED programme is known in Burkina Faso, is the shock of floods and drought.

Burkina Faso has a disaster response agency that operates at the national level. But as Sana Ousseni, of BRACED partner Alliance Technique d'Assistance au Développement (ATAD) explained, villagers often reported that when disaster struck, the response was too slow and didn’t take into account the specific context of the village.

The solution to this began in 2008, when ATAD developed a system of early warning committees, operating at village level, in response to a spate of insect attacks on crops. The project had been successful as communities were now in regular dialogue with the government, so ATAD adopted this approach again with BRACED.

Early warning committees

Participatory contingency plans were developed and the existing village development committee were trained to receive and interpret climate information, via SMS and radio, and distribute it through a household network.

This system was tested in 2017 when a short drought struck the community in the middle of the rainy season. Given a week’s warning and told to avoid tilling the land, the community avoided drying out the soil.

However, when an SMS arrived a week later, predicting the return of heavy rains, not everyone believed them, and one farmer lost livestock as a result. This was a decisive moment in the community.

When things began happening like we were saying, they started to trust our committee.

- Ouedraogo Naamsigui, Early warning committee member, Tibtenga.

Empowering local communities

The early warning system depends on a complex network of meteorological partners, the national radio and TV network, a lexicon created by BRACED partner Internews to translate weather terms into local languages and the training of 120 staff in the national disaster response agency.

77 such early warning committees have been established by BRACED during the programme.

One of the greatest strengths of the programme has been the empowerment of local communities to report back to these national agencies and government services. The information now flows in both directions; relationships and trust have been developed where before there was suspicion and silence.

Data snapshot

17% more subsistence farmers like Ouedraogo Naamsigui have access to effective early warning systems since joining BRACED.
Beginning of change

First deputy mayor of the municipality of Pissila, Emmanuel Sawadogo, was eager to confirm that these new channels of communication are the beginning of change and a key component to climate resilience.

When things go wrong in the village, committees now send us information. Many things used to happen and we didn’t know about it. Now we can do something about it.

- Emmanuel Sawadogo, First deputy mayor of the municipality of Pissila.

Thanks to the success of this work, the government is now in the process of adopting these early warning groups at a national level in collaboration with the BRACED national implementation partners.

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