What is KAFO?
Burkina Faso is a landlocked West-African country and the world’s seventh poorest country according to the 2019 United Nations Development Program Human Development Index. Some 80 percent of the country’s 20.28 million inhabitants are engaged in subsistence farming. An estimated 44 percent of the population live under the poverty line. This situation of poverty is characterized by poor access to basic social services and the absence of universal health coverage. As a result, life expectancy at birth is very low, and maternal mortality and under-5 mortality are very high.
As for many Sahelian countries, strong climatic variations, rapidly increasing deforestation and irregular rainfalls create daunting challenges for Burkina Faso Government and for the populations, especially in rural areas where the lack of basic infrastructure and the lack of access to health, education and social services add to the risk of extreme poverty. In addition, over the last 6 years, the country has been the theater of numerous acts of terrorism, resulting in the displacement of more than 1.5 million people.
Despite advances in health efforts over the past decades, epidemiological profiles remain dominated by the persistence of vaccine-preventable diseases such as malaria, acute respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and meningitis. Countries are also experiencing a gradual increase in the burden of non-communicable diseases.
KAFO Background and Context
What is KAFO?
Konkourona Alliance Foundation (KAFO), Inc. was established in 2019 to help break the cycle of poverty in remote villages in the Sahel region. The founders of KAFO believe that each community should be at the heart of its own development and sustainability.
Remote villages in Africa are often referred to in international initiatives as the “last mile” of development, as most efforts focus on national and regional needs, and infrastructure development and services rarely reach villages. KAFO sees empowering villages as “the first mile,” claiming that a country's overall development can be enhanced by investing in people, starting with educating children and improving basic health care for all citizens.
The namesake of KAFO, the village of Konkourona in Burkina Faso, is emblematic of the villages in the Sahel region, which risk aggravating the spirals of poverty and mortality due to a lack of simple investment in basic structures like education, health, drinking water and sanitation. Thanks to the partnership between KAFO and the community association Mami Siara Na (MSN) created by the leaders of Konkourona, the village becomes the first mile towards a sustainable future.
KAFO mobilizes funds and provides strategic oversight to MSN members, who are responsible for decisions about the future of the village, prioritizing projects, and supporting development efforts through physical labor and monthly dues. The result is a rural community with a core of basic services that can pave the way for wider development opportunities in alignment with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Mami Siara Na Association of
Konkourona, Burkina Faso
KAFO's First Mile Community Development Efforts
First Mile Community Development Program (FMCDP) efforts began in Konkourona, Burkina Faso, as a proof of concept of what could happen if the needs of a single rural community were prioritized for development. Like many villages in the Sahel region, Konkourona has faced many complex and interconnected challenges. Some of these challenges lent themselves to solutions accessible to the community with relatively little support from government and non-government organizations:
Primary education was ineffective
Access to primary health care, including maternal and child care, was severely limited
Water and basic sanitation were lacking
KAFO/MSN Improves Access to Education
The efficiency of Konkourona primary school has increased significantly, thanks to projects implemented by KAFO and MSN from 2019 to today, such as: construction of new classrooms with electricity, reduction of class size from approximately 90 to 45, construction of housing for teachers, purchase of textbooks for each student and support for tutoring. Figure 2 shows a steady increase in the percentage of students passing the compulsory middle school exam, from 4% in 2019, before KAFO and MSN began development efforts, to 44% in 2020, and 76% in 2021. The difference between old and new classrooms is illustrated below.
Now that success rates in primary school have increased so significantly, educational options beyond primary school are needed. KAFO plans to build a library, as well as a middle school, technical school and a high school in the coming years to dramatically increase the population’s well-being and preparedness for meaningful work. Housing for teachers and school staff members will also be built to encourage educators to remain in the community and be part of its development.
Percentage of students passing the middle school exam since 2019
KAFO/MSN Improves Access to Healthcare
A primary health center, comprising a primary care facility, a maternal and child facility, a pharmacy, latrines, housing for health workers, an incinerator and a laundry, all with electricity and running water, has now been built and will be operational soon.
Primary Health Center
KAFO/MSN Improves Access to Water and Sanitation
A good source of clean water was found and a tower was constructed in Konkourona in 2021 to install running water in the primary health center. The source was sufficient to also provide water to the residents and several fountains were constructed throughout the village. Results of water testing demonstrated that the water was clean with no chemical or microbial contamination. Several latrines have also been constructed in the village since development efforts began in 2019, to improve sanitation and gradually move away from open air defecation.
Old water source
KAFO/MSN Creates Economic Development Opportunities
New water source
The closest town to Konkourona is Lena, which is 11 miles away and takes approximately 2 hours to get to by bike because the road is unpaved. In addition to having higher-level education options, Lena offers opportunities for farmers to sell their crops.
Crops harvested in October and November of each year often must last until the next harvest in the following October or November in order to feed the farmers and their families in Konkourona. The wisest farmers will save enough of their crops to last for two years in the event there are limited rains in a given season. However, there is no space for storage of crops away from rains and rodents. Most often families have small shelters that are primarily used for sleeping.
Climate change is causing increased temperatures and more variable rainfall, which will make subsistence farming more difficult. Improvements in education will help provide more employment opportunities for students, but those opportunities do not currently exist in Konkourona or neighbouring villages and towns.
KAFO/MSN Protects the Environment and Provides Access to Clean Energy
One third of Burkina Faso’s national territory is degraded, and that degradation is expanding every year. Wood is scarce, and every household needs it every day for cooking. A long-term solution is needed. KAFO and MSN are partnering with the Burkina Faso Department of Environmental Protection to begin reforestation efforts by planting 1000 trees in Konkourona in 2022.
Assessing reforestation needs
Few households have access to electricity or the conveniences that electricity brings, such as: lights for reading or doing homework or operating outside of daylight hours, refrigerators for longer term food storage, and use of computers or cell phones, to name a few. KAFO and MSN have been installing solar electricity in all buildings constructed so far, and will continue to look for opportunities to bring electricity to the community.
Solar panel installation on primary health center
Site of new health center
KAFO is a non-governmental charitable organization, incorporated in the United States of America with 501(c)(3) status.
KAFO has established a strong track record of delivering on its commitment to support the development of Konkourona by partnering with MSN to improve access to primary education, healthcare, water and sanitation. Plans are in progress to further support the community through economic development and environmental protection.
KAFO is the first non-governmental organization, in the history of this sub-region of Burkina Faso, to make this level of contribution to the development of a village -- making it an example that has the potential to encourage other villages to seek the same partnership.
Community leaders from neighboring villages have started visiting Konkourona to inquire about how this experience can be extended to them. The government’s political, health and education authorities have already paid visits to provide encouragement and support for KAFO initiatives. Following success in Konkourona, KAFO aims to expand its reach to other villages within the Sahel.
KAFO’s leadership is made of volunteers in the US and Switzerland with full-time employment or experience in the healthcare industry. They each have nearly 30 years of proven success in public health leadership positions at local, national and/or international levels, including providing direct healthcare, leading national immunization programs, and leading registration of vaccines to prevent the spread of infectious diseases worldwide. KAFO leaders use both conventional and innovative approaches to their work to meet the world’s growing healthcare needs.
KAFO works with the “Mami Siara Na” (MSN) Association in Konkourona, which is legally recognized by the Government of Burkina Faso as a tax-exempt charity organization. MSN is a community-based association setup initially for partnership with KAFO on development and will be critical to sustainability following of any improvements.
The Association mobilizes the members of the village to identify the key priority programs, provides local labor for the construction projects, and ensures community support for education, healthcare, water and sanitation, community development and environmental protection efforts. KAFO and MSN’s technical partner, SCMS, is a nationally renowned construction management company with an excellent track record of delivering high quality buildings, bridges and other major constructions in Burkina Faso.
Close partnership with a village association like MSN is seen as critical to successful development and sustainability in any village and formation of such an association will be a prerequisite to KAFO involvement.
Several visits from regional health, education and administrative authorities have taken place, during which they provided strong encouragement and confirmed their support to appoint teachers and healthcare personnel to Konkourona, as needed.
KAFO/MSN Corporate Capabilities
MSN gathers pebbles
MSN gathers sand
Frequently Asked Questions about KAFO
Q: What are KAFO’s major sources of funding?
A: KAFO is primarily funded by the founders with help from friends and family members.
Q: If I donate, how do I know that my money will be used for something worthwhile?
A: KAFO founders pay all administrative and salary costs for a select few individuals in Burkina Faso. Operations in the United States are performed on a volunteer basis. All other donations go directly to the projects in Konkourona.
Q: How can I help?
A: KAFO needs funding to be able to continue to work in Konkourona.
Please consider sharing the news about KAFO with a friend, running a fundraiser, Sponsoring a Child, becoming part of Team Sandia, or designating KAFO as your charity of choice on AmazonSmile.