In Burkina Faso, neighbours join forces to clean up city drainage ditches

People worked together to clean out the drainage ditches in their neighborhood in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. (Photo: Julien Tiendrebeogo)
People worked together to clean out the drainage ditches in their neighborhood in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. (Photo: Julien Tiendrebeogo)

Every Saturday, people living in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, gather to clean out the clogged drainage ditches in their neighborhood. They say they had to take matters into their own hands as the city has consistently failed to provide this basic service.

The initiative began in Somgandé, a neighbourhood located in the 4ᵗʰ arrondissement of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. The drainage ditches in the capital are often clogged with rubbish, making it impossible for the water to flow through them. Frustrated that city workers were not cleaning the ditches out, a community group decided that it was time for local residents to take matters into their own hands. The group, the Association for the Promotion of Citizenship and Development (APCD, or Association pour la Promotion de la Citoyenneté et le Développement), organised a community ditch clean-up operation. More than 200 people turned up on August 24 and 31 to help out.

Julien Tiendrebeogo, the president of the APCD, said that they couldn’t wait for the city to deal with this problem any longer:

We had to do something to get the authorities’ attention - we couldn’t leave the situation as it was. The drainage ditches are filled with rubbish. We needed to clean up our living environment.

We also needed to free up the ditches to allow water to circulate, thus preventing the floods that wreak havoc on our country during the rainy season.

This work is also important in terms of malaria prevention. The stagnant water in these clogged drainage ditches is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, right next to people’s homes.

This post (in French) shows the clogged drainage ditches in the 4ᵗʰ arrondissement. The rubbish-filled ditches are “extremely dirty” and create ideal breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitos.

That’s why we started carrying out what we call "Mana Mana" operations. "Mana mana" is an expression which means something that has to be done quickly and well.

We made fliers with photos of the clogged drainage ditches to get people’s attention. We handed them out to locals and important people in the neighbourhood, like tribal chiefs and community leaders. We also spread the word on Facebook and read out an announcement about the upcoming event on the local city radio station.

Fliers about the ditch-cleaning event.

It was a big success. Nearly 300 people participated in the clean-up on the first day. Even the elderly - some over the age of 70 - took part.

The fittest among us climbed into the drainage ditches to pull out rubbish. Older people, women and children gathered it up and carried it to the landfill. We worked from 5am until 6pm!

Photos by Julien Tiendrebeogo (slideshow).


Photos by Julien Tiendrebeogo (slideshow).

We were efficient. The night after our first clean-up, there was a lot of rain but, thanks to our hard work, the water drained properly and there wasn’t any damage.

Photo by Julien Tiendrebeogo.

"City officials were doing nothing, so we decided we had to act"

Tiendrebeogo said that neighbourhood residents provided a truck for the volunteers to use during the clean-up operation.

The city government in the 4ᵗʰ arrondissement donated 25,000 CFA francs (about 38 euros) to the initiative, while the Ouagadougou municipality provided the clean-up crew with ten shovels and five wheelbarrows.

Tiendrebeogo said that wasn’t enough:

We had to rent three times the number of tools that they provided us with! Our clean-up cost around 400,000 CFA francs (close to 610 euros).

We want to organise regular clean-ups but we need to have our own tools. For that, we’ll depend on the generosity of locals.

For the past five years, city officials have known that our drainage ditches are frequently blocked with rubbish. It’s their job to ensure the cleanliness of our living environment. However, if they don’t do it, then we have to take care of it ourselves.

We decided to do something with the hope that it would get the attention of city officials.

Anatole Bonkoungou, the mayor of Ouagadougou’s 4ᵗʰ arrondissement told the France 24 Observers team that he "supports community initiatives" that help achieve the "minimum conditions for sustainable development."

Bonkoungou refuted claims that the city isn’t actively working to solve the issue of clogged drainage ditches.

"There are so many blocked drainage ditches that we have to call on citizens to help us solve this issue," he said. "However, for some people, if they don’t see work being done in their own neighborhood then they assume that city authorities aren’t doing anything."

Officials working for the 4ᵗʰ arrondissement said that, in 2019, the city invested close to 6 million CFA francs (close to 9,150 euros) for dredging and cleaning drainage ditches. However, during his conversation with the FRANCE 24 Observers team, Bonkoungou wasn’t able to provide specifics on the project that required that budget. We will update this page if he sends more information.


Article by Pierre Hamdi (@PierreHamdi)