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    Factory director, Elie Grand, says that is because the machines in the factory are outdated.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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.