Right Livelihood Award Foundation mourns Bernard Lédéa Ouédraogo

News 27.10.2017

The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is deeply saddened by the passing of Bernard Lédéa Ouédraogo from Burkina Faso, who received the Right Livelihood Award in 1990 “for strengthening peasant self-help movements all over West Africa”.

“On behalf of the entire Right Livelihood Award family, I would like to express our deepest condolences to Ouédraogo’s family. Bernard Lédéa Ouédraogo was not only a true visionary, he created real change on the ground by developing and implementing his ideas through practical work together with the local population. His work has empowered thousands of people across Burkina Faso and will continue to do so for a long time”, said Ole von Uexkull, Director of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation.

Bernard Lédéa Ouédraogo passed away on October 25, 2017, at the age of 87 due to illness. The Right Livelihood Award Foundation is sending its deepest and most heartfelt condolences to his family and colleagues at the National Federation of Naam Groupings.

Laureates featured images_0010s_0002_1990 - Bernard Lédéa Quedraogo_Salzburg05 (c) RLA Foundation, Ulrike AltekruseWith a doctorate from Sorbonne, his talents as a trainer soon led him to a higher civil servant position with the aim of supporting farmers. Ouédraogo found that he was unable to help the people he was supposed to be training and couldn’t understand why.

“We undertook a thorough study of village social organisations – the people’s thinking and their social and economic structures – and we discovered that the Naam group, a traditional village body composed of young people, had the most highly developed cooperative characteristics. We decided we would attempt to work with the Naam structures”, Ouédraogo said in connection with the Award presentation in Stockholm 1990.

Despite some initial problems, this people’s movement prospered, with half of the network comprised of women’s groups. The use of the traditional structure in this way was a brilliant piece of practical sociology by Ouédraogo.

The activities of the Naam groups, which are still active today, are as broad as life itself, working with everything from food security, credit, communication, social actions, and education. They have, for example, supported farmers with the manufacturing and trade of products, created seed banks, dams and wells, established credit banks, and constructed cellars for preserving potatoes.

The guiding principle behind the Naam Groups is to fight poverty, alienation, and oppression – factors that engender violence of all kinds. Today, there is great concern that international entities, in cooperation with the government of Burkina Faso, will take over large areas of land for agribusiness. The Naam groups’ work is as important today as it was 1990 when Ouédraogo was honoured for this work. The Right Livelihood Award will continue to follow and support the work of the National Federation of Naam Groupings.

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