“Alone, we go fast. Together, we go further” (Story of Change)
The Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) leads the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and in partnership with the Dutch Directorate-General for International Cooperation (DGIS).
V4CP is working with 51 locally-based civil society organisations (CSOs) around the world to bridge the gap between the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their implementation within society, especially amongst low-income and marginalised communities. It does so by building the capacity of CSOs to influence stakeholders and decision-makers with solid and contextualised evidence in order to get the interests of communities embedded into government and business policies and practices.
This story showcases the success of the collaborative, evidence-based advocacy approach as promoted by SNV and its CSO partners in Burkina Faso. By applying this approach, CSOs supported by the V4CP programme, improve household’s access to quality renewable energy products and services by joining forces in a coalition.
A very special August 3rd
On the morning of August 3rd 2018, the time had finally come for the Nébié family to take their annual trip from Ouagadougou to their family’s village. Everything was ready - the luggage was neatly stacked in the trunk of the car, and snacks and drinks were stowed in the cooler nearby. The vehicle had also been fully checked for a worry-free journey on Burkina Faso’s dusty and pothole-plagued roads.
This year would be different. Mrs. Nébié would not be joining her family for this trip. Her employer at the Albert Schweitzer Ecological Centre (CEAS) - a pioneering association and a leader in renewable energy and food security in Burkina Faso - had requested her presence at a significant ceremony, and she would not want to miss this opportunity…
That same morning, the (then) Minister of the Environment, Mr. Alpha Oumar Dissa, felt just as enthusiastic as Mrs. Nébié. He had closely monitored the events leading up to this ceremony and had put in a special request for it to be postponed so that he could attend. In spite of his busy schedule, he would not miss out on this special occasion.
Mrs. Nébié at a V4CP Workshop
Across the city, Mr Konseibo, head of the CEAS, was preparing the last touches for this special ceremony. Having worked in renewable energy for the past twenty-five years, he is a well-known figure in this sector. Even now, in his early sixties, he still speaks with passion about advocating for change and making an impact.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sanou from the Catholic Organisation for Development and Solidarity (OCADES) was already on his way. His organisation promotes the integral human development of people and communities, in addition to social justice, peace and human rights. OCADES is a recognised and widely respected national organisation and its participation in the ceremony will greatly enhance the visibility of the organisation.
Mr. Tou, from the Inter Village Association for the Management of Natural Resources and Wildlife of Comoé-Léraba (AGEREF-CL), a village association responsible for the management of classified forests, has already arrived at the venue. His association revolutionised the wildlife sector by being the first to be handed full community-level forest management rights by the state.
Since 2016, these three Burkinabe CSOs have worked closely with the V4CP to boost their advocacy capacity in the renewable energy sector, and to better influence government policies for major improvements in legislation. No one would have thought that the V4CP’s call for proposals, two short years ago, would have brought such fundamentally different organisations together to overcome their differences and to collaborate as they have done. Thanks to the sound collaboration and synergy with two other powerful advocacy projects ACE-WA and SEforALL, implemented by CEAS and SNV respectively, this August 3rd will be remembered by Ms. Nébié, the Minister, the V4CP reps and the 19 CSOs present.
For all stakeholders involved, August 3rd became ‘a historic day, a day that a charter formalising the creation of the National Coalition for the Promotion of Renewable Energies and Access to Sustainable Energy in Burkina Faso (CNPDER), was signed’.
By joining forces, the National Coalition would be able to advocate more effectively on energy issues to influence the country’s key decision makers.
A proud and cohesive group
During the ceremony, the partners - Mr. Konseibo, Mr. Sanou and Mr. Tou - felt a sense of pride in having succeeded in this unique endeavor. Their happy smiling faces masked the long and tedious journey that preceded today's ceremony. Notably so because they had managed to gather a broad coalition of CSOs to advance the cause of renewable energy in Burkina Faso. They thought fondly of the tale of the African King and his elephant - a story that had inspired them from the very beginning. By remembering this tale at each of their meetings, they had forged bonds of trust, solidarity and fraternity, thus ensuring that their coalition did not suffer the same fate as that of the villagers in the tale.
For two years, the three CSOs had worked their fertile soil and sowed seeds of hope, waiting to see the fruits of their efforts grow. Without this open-mindedness and commitment, this ceremony would probably not have taken place.
For two years, they had practiced a game of patience in order to foster a common vision, to fight the good fight, to push a just cause for all.
For two years, they had propagated the philosophy of sharing information, positive energy and the renunciation of sectarian identities, all of which are necessary for any advocacy struggle.
Partners made of pure gold
At one point during the ceremony, discretely in the background, you could see a man shaking hands and congratulating the members. They all recognise him, and appreciate him for his pragmatic and flexible approach. His name is Martin Van Dam, Renewable Energy Expert for SNV. In him, they see an unwavering support and contribution made by their main partners SNV and IFPRI, who believe in a collaborative approach and evidence-based advocacy.
By signing the charter today, each CSO has committed itself to respecting the established rules of conduct that ensure the sharing of information, fruitful collaboration, and the cohesion of their advocacy initiatives. What is more, Mr. Dissa’s signature inspired his successor, the next Minister Mr. Ismael Bashir Ouedraogo, to have the same level of commitment and moral responsibility to the Coalition. This became evident when he met with the coalition after having been sworn in as the new Minister of Environment in 2017.
By the end of the ceremony, it was clear that the V4CP approach had been the right one. Strengthening CSOs advocacy capabilities, while bringing key actors into a strong coalition, is an important step towards better regulation of the renewable energy sector; as well as easier access to quality, energy-efficient RE equipment for the people of Burkina Faso. It will also contribute to improved services through better training of technicians for the installation and maintenance of RE products.
CSOs holding a copy of the signed copy of the National Coalition.
Confidence in tomorrow
Today, the V4CP’s vision has materialised. The Coalition is now recognised as one of the principal interlocutors of legislative and decision-making bodies and is actively involved in organising the African Renewable Energy Week (SEERA). What is more, it is a member of the Energy Sector Board of the Ministry of Environment and advises the Minister on how to improve regulation of the sector in Burkina Faso.
Importantly, the Coalition has also developed a network within key ministries that have some responsibility in the renewable energy sector. Focal points within each ministry now regularly participate in coalition meetings, which strengthens the synergy between the government and coalition members. Recently, this became evident when the Coalition alerted public authorities of a possible overlap in responsibilities between ANEERE and ABNORM - the two main government agencies in charge of structuring and regulating environmental issues in the country - and suggested a clarification of roles and better coordination of the activities of both bodies.
It was with a great sense of accomplishment that each of the leaders of the CSOs returned home. Mr. Konseibo envisioned an army of qualified technicians installing certified equipment in thousands of villages in Burkina Faso. For Mr. Tou, he imagined a husband cooking a dish of tô for his family on a biogas-fueled furnace while his child did his homework next to the light of a solar lamp, and his wife sitting in a lawn chair listening to her favourite radio show. Now this was within reach. For Mr. Sanou, he felt strongly that the walls of resistance had just been brought down.
Everything was possible now.
Ms. Nébié, for her part, was just happy to be able to join her family in the village. The holidays could now begin, as she knew in her heart that her country just gave itself a greater chance for a better future.
-------  ACE-WA = Accelerating implementation of regional policies on Clean Energy in West Africa, funded by the Danish organisation “Sustainable Energy”; SEforALL = Strengthen Civil Society Engagement with UN SEforALL Initiative, funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.