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FEATURE STORY October 15, 2018

Burkina Faso: Boosting Rural Incomes to Break the Cycle of Intergenerational Poverty


“Last year, in the middle of the school year, I got very sick and couldn’t attend classes to obtain the ‘certificat d’études primaires élémentaires’ (Primary Level Diploma).  I lost a lot of weight and people said I was going to die,” recounts Salif, who later received treatment and was able to return to school.

Photo: World Bank


  • In 2017, 40% of the population of Burkina Faso lived on less than $1.90 per day.
  • An integrated social protection program links the distribution of cash transfers and various other activities to the poorest households.
  • One of the objectives of the program is to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

OUGADOUGOU, October 15, 2018— Minata Sawadogo and her husband were not always able to provide three meals a day for their seven children.  Like most of the other inhabitants of their village in the Ouahigouya commune, in the north of Burkina Faso, they derive their livelihood from farming and livestock. 

The hardships of rural poverty

Climate change has long ceased to be an abstract concept to the farmers of this Sahel country located in the heart of West Africa.  Their crops have come under tremendous strain and the living conditions of the already fragile rural population (92% of the poor live in rural areas) have worsened because of the too infrequent rains or torrential downpours, or as a result of droughts, floods, violent winds or raging fires. In 2017, climate-related events led to a cereal deficit in excess of 400,000 metric tons and caused food insecurity to spike, with children being the first to be impacted.  As Minata’s son, Salif said: “Last year, in the middle of the school year, I got very sick and couldn’t attend classes to obtain the certificat d’études primaires élémentaires (Primary Level Diploma).  I lost a lot of weight and people said I was going to die.”

The memories are still painful for his mother. “The elders in the village thought that Salif would not make it and told me to prepare for his burial,” recounts Minata. “It was because of the transfers that I received from the ‘Burkin-Naong-Sa Ya’ project that I was able to take him to the hospital for proper treatment.”  Today, Salif has recovered and is back in school. This gives great hope to his mother who is convinced that by completing his education, Salif will be able to lift the entire family out of poverty for good.


The cash transfers received each month by Minata have helped her to better feed her children and to start rearing small ruminants to supplement her income.

Photo: World Bank

Transfers that target the poorest households…

Minata also used the cash transfers to buy livestock and start rearing goats to supplement her income and better provide for her children.

The ‘Burkin-Naong-Sa Ya’ (which in the Mooré dialect means ‘end of poverty in Burkina Faso’), is a social safety net project started in 2014 with $55 million in funding from the World Bank.  It was implemented by the government in the North, Central West, Central East and East regions, where over 60% of poor households are concentrated.

It brings together a mix of interventions in the social sectors of health and education to create an adaptive system designed to improve the effectiveness of public policies on social protection and to build resilience in poor and vulnerable households to climate change and other shocks. It also enables these households to diversify their sources of income.  The project will be scaled-up to include the regions of Sahel and then Boucle du Mouhoun.

Over 114,500 fragile households, selected on the basis of the Proxy Means Testing methodology, are currently receiving a quarterly transfer of CFAF 30,000 (around $60) for households with fewer than five children and CFAF 40,000 (around $80) for households with five or more children.

As the project coordinator, Emile Zabsonré explains: “Thanks to these transfers, project beneficiaries are able to provide three meals a day for their families, cover school fees and health expenses for their children and invest in income-generating activities, such as small businesses, livestock rearing and horticulture.”

…in combination with other social activities

To address poverty in all its dimensions, the project links the award of cash transfers to activities that promote better nutrition, health and education outcomes.

Against this background, raising awareness and monitoring sessions, organized in groups of 20 to 25 members, are targeted to women living in fragile households.  Each month, they receive counseling on health, hygiene and nutrition, as well as on the cognitive development of their children.  The community facilitators of the project pay regular house visits to monitor progress and check on the proper physical and cognitive development of the children.  Finally, they mobilize the village each month to discuss ways to improve the living conditions of all residents.

“Our main objective is to break the intergenerational transmission of poverty through actions that promote the cognitive and affective development of children and better schooling,” notes Gilberte Kedote, World Bank Project Manager

The social safety net program was implemented by the Government of Burkina Faso and co-financed by various donor partners, including the World Bank.  In January 2017, the project received additional financing of $6 million from the Adaptive Social Protection Multidonor Trust Fund.  This fund is managed by the World Bank and aims to enhance the access of poor and vulnerable populations of the Sahel region to effective social adaptive protection programs.  It seeks to extend its reach into other regions to help lower the national poverty rate from 40.1% in 2014 to less than 35% by 2020.