For strengthening peasant self-help movements all over West Africa.
Bernard Lédéa Ouédraogo (1930-2017) was the founder and president of the Naam Movement, a large grassroots initiative for self-reliance and cooperation among farmers and villagers in Burkina Faso.
Ouédraogo also founded the non-governmental initiative Six S dedicated to removing three obstacles to peasant mobilisation: the lack of technical know-how for coping with drought and desertification, the lack of negotiating skills to deal with government and aid agencies, and the lack of funds to implement small projects. Six S became a federation of peasant organisations from nine countries in the Sahelian zone, including the Naam.
Bernard Lédéa Ouédraogo passed away in 2017 at the age of 91.
After finishing school in 1950, Ouédraogo became a teacher and school director and then turned to agriculture. His talents as a trainer led him to the top echelons of the civil service. But he found he could not help the farmers and village groups he was supposed to be training, so he left to find out why.
His first question was whether anything existed in the traditional society of the Mossi (Burkina's largest ethnic group) that resembled village groups. "We undertook a thorough study of village social organisation - 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."
The result was an initiative unique in Africa. Despite a lot of problems, the Naam groups prospered. By 1978 there were over 2,500 groups in Yatenga province with 160,000 members. Twenty years later, this had risen to 6,480 groups all over Burkina Faso - almost half of them women's groups - with a membership of 300,000.
The transformation of the traditional Naam groups into modern social structures was a brilliant piece of practical sociology by Ouédraogo. He gives four reasons for their success: dynamic local leadership and activity; maintenance of traditional values; proscription of social, ethnic, political or religious discrimination; and training and motivation generated from within the group.
The activities of the Naam groups are as broad as life itself. They grow, build, manufacture, trade. As of 1999, they had created 235 cereal banks, 115 mills, 22 dams and about 300 wells. In addition, they have established 17 credit banks and constructed six cellars in Yatenga for preserving the 1,000 tons of potatoes they grow each year. The Naam groups are helped with aid funds from French, Swiss, Dutch and German agencies, and they generate their own incomes.
In 1976, Ouédraogo founded, with the French development expert Bernard Lecomte, the Association Six S (Se Servir de la Saison Sèche en Savane et au Sahel), becoming its Executive Director two years later. While Naam is a people's movement, Six S is a non-governmental organisation. It was dedicated to removing three obstacles to peasant mobilisation: the lack of technical know-how for coping with drought and desertification, the lack of negotiating skills to deal with government and aid agencies, and the lack of funds to implement small projects.
Six S became a federation of peasant organisations like (and including) the Naam from nine countries in the Sahelian zone. By the late 1980s, Six S was reckoned to serve over 2 million people based on a direct membership of 245,000 farmers.
In the mid-1990s, Ouédraogo was elected Mayor of his home town, Ouahigouya.