Peasant Autonomy
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Story 168

A village in Burkina Faso – 2017

The petty thief and his grandma

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: IWMI West Africa)

Burkina Faso.

Mame hasn't been so happy in a long time. The robust, sturdy old woman with the heavy glasses, whom everyone in the village calls 'Mame', has just received a visitor. And what a visitor it is. Her grandson Ady from France has come! She takes his hand in hers, and says maybe ten times in Dyula that she is so happy to see him, so happy, so happy.

Ady is an unruly, obstinate adolescent from France. His father, who originally came from Burkina Faso, has sent him to his brother Amadou in that country. He has told Ady that he will go there for vacation, but asked Amadou to give him a good talking-to, because Ady is completely on the wrong track. He has become a petty thief, who doesn't listen to anyone.

Now, Ady lives with his uncle in a small city in Burkina Faso. That's not easy for him, because his uncle is very strict. He has to work to pay back the two hundred Euros he has stolen the last few months in France. Ady had imagined his 'vacation' quite differently. He is angry, and wants to go back home at once. But that's impossible. When Ady just had arrived, his uncle Amadou asked him for his passport. When the boy handed it over, unaware, his uncle hid it away. He will only give it back when Ady has earned back all the stolen money, and has returned it.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Rita Willaert)

Burkina Faso.

From time to time, Ady walks to the village to visit his dear grandmother, Mame. Yéli, a charming granddaughter of Mame, who lives in the same village, translates. She is the same age as Ady. Sitting together at the vegetable garden to chase away the birds, Grandma tells about life in the village, and Yéli translates. Finally, Grandma asks Ady why he looks so dissatisfied. When he explains the situation, she says “Ady, my darling, it is time for you to become a real man. Listen to your uncle. Do the work he assigns you to do. It is not that difficult. Your uncle will help you to become a real man, whom we all can be proud of. Just do it. We will all help you.”

When Ady walks back to the town, Yéli walks along with him for quite a long way, and makes him laugh with all sorts of funny stories.


The film Wallay (2017) made by the Swiss director Berni Goldblat tells the story of a French adolescent, who has arrived in Burkina Faso. The movie beautifully depicts the landscape, and also shows a bit of the village life. Goldblat himself has lived in Burkina Faso for the past several years.

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