Dr. Bernard Lédéa Ouédraogo, the President and founder of the Naam Movement in Burkina Faso–Africa’s largest and most successful grassroots movements for self-reliance—died in the capital city of Ouagadougou on October 25, 2017. He was 87.
The Hunger Project deeply mourns his loss. He received the Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger for his bold, visionary leadership in motivating hundreds of thousands of small-scale farmers in the dry Sahel region of West Africa to take charge of their own development. It was Dr. Ouédraogo who first invited The Hunger Project to establish an office in Burkina Faso in 1997. Together with the late Dr. Idrissa Dicko, Dr. Ouédraogo identified the first 11 members of the National Advisory Council of The Hunger Project-Burkina Faso.
Dr. Ouédraogo won the Africa Prize award in 1989 in recognition of his efforts mobilizing a powerful grassroots movement of farmers in Burkina Faso through the Naam Movement, which he founded and presided over until his passing. Having realized early in his career that the government-run cooperatives were not being accepted by the people, Dr. Ouédraogo looked for a better way to stimulate the participation of farmers in their own development. He realized that in his own Mossi society, there existed a traditional group called “Kombi-Naam,” which gathered all the young men and women in a village for various agricultural, cultural and social activities.
Over the years, and in close collaboration with the villagers, the traditional “Kombi-Naam” structure was transformed the Naam Movement, a modernized, grassroots structure of self-help organizations. First started in 1964, the movement has grown from 160,000 members in 1978 to a nationwide network of over 300,000 adherents.
Dr. Ouédraogo was also known for having co-founded the Six-S association, which stands for the French “Se servir de la saison sèche en Savane et au Sahel,” (using the dry season in the savannah and the Sahel). Six-S is Africa’s largest farmer-network aid and training network consisting of federated organizations of hundreds of thousands of members in nine West African countries ─ Burkina Faso, Chad, the Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
In his acceptance speech in 1989, Dr. Ouédraogo referred to his work as a real commitment to the empowerment of rural commitment in Africa. “[I] have the conviction that hunger is not our destiny, for we have taken stock of our strengths and our capacity to organize ourselves, by making ourselves responsible for ending it,” he said. “We also know that no one else can resolve our problems for us.”
Dr. Ouédraogo boasted a long career devoted to the empowerment of communities. Born in 1930 in Gourcy, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dr. Ouédraogo completed his primary and secondary studies in Ouahigouya, before earning a teaching degree in 1949 and teaching school until 1962. He then entered the agricultural field, becoming a rural extension worker. In 1977, he received his doctorate from the Sorbonne University in Paris.