In her village in Burkina Faso in western Africa, Ouoba Salamata is a Grandmother—with a capital “G.” Not only does she care for her immediate family, but also for her entire village. And, like many grandmothers – with a small “g”, she has lived a life filled with hard work, sacrifice, and boundless love for her family.
Wherever I travel, the faces of everyday heroes become imprinted in my memory. I recently returned from a visit to Helen Keller International’s programs in Burkina Faso where I met Salamata, a hard-working, brave member of her village. When I saw how she has utilized HKI’s programs to transform life for her entire community, I knew I had to share her inspiring story with you.
With five children, seven grandchildren and an elderly husband, Salamata has many mouths to feed. She’s now able to do that and much more thanks to HKI’s Homestead Food Production program. Three years ago, HKI provided her with tools, seedlings, and chickens, as well as training and nutritional counseling so she can produce nutritious food in her garden and prepare healthy meals for her family.
Now, Salamata grows beans, cabbage, eggplant, soya and tomatoes, providing a wealth of essential nutrients for her family. Another important crop in Salamata’s garden is the orange-fleshed sweetpotato, which is rich in vitamin A to help babies and children thrive.
Her bountiful plot is proof of Salamata’s knack for farming. So is her role as a Farm Leader among other local homestead gardeners. Salamata shares the skills and expertise she learned from HKI— such as planting crops in raised beds to protect them from flooding, spacing seedlings to absorb maximum sunlight and rainfall, and rotating crops from season to season, so soil nutrients go further. Thanks to the nutritional training she received from HKI, the village mothers also rely on her for advice on the care and feeding of their children including such valuable lessons as the importance of washing your hands and breastfeeding your baby.
While I was visiting Salamata’s village, I learned about some of the difficulties Salamata has faced as the sole breadwinner for her extended family– including not being able to send her children to school: the school fees were simply too expensive for Salamata’s limited income.
When our team noticed Salamata’s nine-year-old son Ibrahim was joining her at homestead gardening meetings instead of going off to school with the other children, it was suggested that Salamata plant a special garden for her son and sell the vegetables she grew to pay for Ibrahim’s schooling. HKI staff helped Salamata dig the garden and, within a matter of weeks, the new plants were flourishing. And by the time of my visit, just two months later, sales from Ibrahim’s plot had generated enough income to send him to primary school.
Salamata said to me; “I am very proud to be able to send my son to school with the extra income I earn and happy that I can keep my family healthy thanks to what I have learned from HKI about good nutrition and health.”
This Mother’s Day, I hope you’ll be inspired to support more mothers and grandmothers in countries like Burkina Faso and villages like Salamata’s. Perhaps you’ll make a gift through HKI’s RaiseForWomen campaign in honor of your own mother, or a parent or grandparent you admire. Mothers and grandmothers around the world are counting on you.