News / Africa

Burkina Cloth Reveals Paradoxes in Country's Biggest Industry

March 8 is International Women's Day, a national holiday in Burkina Faso. One way of celebrating is by making new clothes from Women's Day cloth that is designed with a new pattern every year. Burkina Faso is Africa's largest cotton producer, but the cloth reveals contradictions in the country's biggest industry.

Multimedia

Audio

In Burkina Faso's second-largest city, Bobo-Dioulasso, cloth merchant Douda Tassembedo walks up and down the streets selling new designs.  Today he has rolls of cloth for International Women's Day, March 8.  A lot of women are looking, but Tassembedo is having a hard time getting anyone to buy. He says business is slow.  He says people buy one piece, or at most three pieces, each, not too much.  So he says if he makes five sales a day he can get by.

Tassembedo passes by one lady, Salimata Ouedrago, wearing the Women's Day cloth from last year.  She decides not to buy this year's design quite yet.

Ouedrago says in Burkina Faso, March 8 is a day for women to relax and men to take care of everything at home.  Ouedrago says the men go to the market, run errands and then come home and cook.  But she says the March 8 designs are expensive.

The cloth vendor says "good bye" and keeps walking.

In the town of Koudougou, the machines at Burkina Faso's only textile factory, Fasotex, are busy printing cloth for Women's Day.  Even though this cloth is specially designed for Burkina Faso, only about a third is manufactured in the country.

The Fasotex factory has had trouble making money recently.  It was privatized and reopened in 2006 after losing money as a national business.  Since then, only one small part of the factory has gotten up and running.

Today, Fasotex only prints designs on fabric, it does not turn the raw cotton into cloth like it used to.  Underneath the designs, the fabric itself is imported from Benin, even though Burkina Faso is Africa's largest producer of cotton.

Factory director, Elie Grand, says that is because the machines in the factory are outdated.  He says the modern looms outside the country do the same job six or seven times quicker than the Fasotex machines.  Grand says if they were to make the cloth now, it would be twice as expensive as buying it from outside.

Virtually all of Burkina Faso's cotton is exported.  Of the 400,000 tons of cotton it produced last year, far less than one percent actually stayed in the country.  The rest goes abroad to Asia, Ghana and Europe.  It is sold at a price determined on the world market.  About 20 percent of the population depends on cotton farming.

On a small farm outside Bobo-Dioulasso, farmer Sogo Sanou is getting his cotton fields ready for planting.

Sanou says that cotton used to be the biggest part of his farm, but now that the price has been dropping, he plants more corn. He goes on to say that with cotton, even if farmers do good work, they will not have anything to show for it.  He says fertilizer is very expensive and they have to borrow money to pay for it.  Sometimes, even after the harvest, Sanou says farmers have to pawn their belongings to pay back their creditors.  

But some people think cotton producers could make a better profit, if their crops could be used in Burkina Faso.

National Union of Cotton Producers Coordinator Leonce Sanon says Burkina Faso has a very weak capacity to turn cotton into fabric.  But, he says, he thinks developing the textile industry would help increase the revenue of the producers.

There are a few efforts to do that.  At the Fasotex factory, General Manager Grand is working on getting a new fleet of machines that would begin weaving cloth out of local cotton by next year. He says it will not be a big part of national consumption, but Grand says it will certainly give other people the idea to do the same thing across West Africa.

Back on the streets of Bobo-Dioulasso, Douda Tassembedo the Women's Day cloth vendor has finally found an interested customer.  She looks at the cloth and they haggle over the price.   She decides to buy some and even says her friend wants some too. Tassembedo makes a sale. He celebrates with a calabash of millet beer, and then keeps walking.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs