Haoua a terminé ses cours de Master 2 (projets de développement) en 2014. Elle a dû changer de professeur en 2015 pour travailler sur sa thèse. Elle vient d’être informée que son diplôme sera reconnu par CAMES. Elle est déterminée à soutenir, mais pas avant 2018. Il n’y a pas de date limite. Sa thèse est terminée aux 2/3, toujours sur le sujet de son expérience avec le sésame. Elle travaille comme comptable, situation offerte grâce à un ami de Charles Diener. Elle vient d’avoir une hausse de salaire jusqu’à 115.000 CFA par mois. (recommandée par Sonya).


Haoua Nikiema finished her course work for her Master’s in September 2014. There is no deadline for defending her thesis. She has one chapter to go to finish. She hopes to defend this year.

The sesame harvest in 2015 was a success—eight times the harvest of 2014. She is doing her thesis on this experiment. (See my report, Day 3.)

She has been working for a few years now as an accountant at an Indian firm while she takes courses in the evening. She just received an important salary raise.




Haoua’s thesis is on a development project. Her mother started a women’s agricultural cooperative in her father’s village. Haoua talked the women into growing sesame. There’s a growing market for sesame and the women could earn some money.

Day18_07What had happened was the result of a series of small mistakes. Haoua was ill and didn’t come often enough. The women ignored early signs of blight. Haoua detected a parasite and consulted an agronomist who confirmed it and prescribed an insecticide. Oussene brought the insecticide to the village because Haoua was still ill with an attack of malaria. The women didn’t want to use the insecticide until rain was due, because it is dangerous. It never rained. The insecticide was never used. The plants died.

Then Haoua spoke. Word must go out to all in the village that we must work together, she said. “This season we can do better.”


On another day, Mariam accompanied me for a visit with Haoua’s thesis advisor at her university, l’ESCO-IGES, Professor Siaka Barro. Haoua was discouraged; she was to do her thesis on this project.

Professor Barro and Haoua.

Professor Barro and Haoua.

Professor Barro wasn’t discouraged. “To fail doesn’t necessarily make you a failure,” he said to Haoua. “The real failure is not to learn from your mistakes.” He urged her to do her thesis on the failed project, analyzing it carefully and then to develop a five-year plan. “You can defend it in two months,” he said. Haoua seemed revved up to write her thesis and defend it this year. Meanwhile, the rains resumed in July, and the planting of the new crop has begun.



SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAHaoua lost a school year last year when the University of Ouagadougou shut down because it had become so far behind that the only way to catch up was to skip a year. This year, she switched to a private university, with the objective of getting a one-year graduate degree, a kind of half-Master’s, called in French une Maîtrise.

She is studying Development Project Planning, and her thesis will be based on work she is doing with a 17-woman agricultural cooperative in her father’s home village 25 km outside of Ouagadougou.


Haoua briefing coop members on the sesame project.

Haoua briefing coop members on the sesame project.

The women earn no money at present. Haoua thinks they can make a profit cultivating sesame. We met a professor who told us that the export value of sesame is rising, while that of cotton, Burkina Faso’s cash crop, is falling. We ate in a Turkish restaurant in Ouagadougou in January and were told Turks are coming to Burkina Faso for the sesame. We think Haoua is on to something. The Bertini Fund gave us a grant to help Haoua get started. She also has the support of a New York-based donor.



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