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Factory director, Elie Grand, says that is because the machines in the factory are outdated.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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap 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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid