Norwich's Melissa aims to harvest the desert
2009: A student at the University of East Anglia
has won access to a European Union grant of up to £60,000 to help her home country, Burkina Faso
in West Africa.
Burkina Faso is the second poorest country in the world, and one in five of its people face acute hunger. Climate change is threatening the country’s very survival, as the sands of the Sahara Desert shift southwards and suffocate its agricultural land.
Melissa attends Norwich Family Life Church, and is now in the second year of a degree in International Development. She supports herself with various part-time jobs.
She had been longing to help her home country. On 12 February she and her Christian friends held a day of prayer and fasting, and between 1pm and 2.30pm she prayed about Christian Aid. At 2pm the organisation's headquarters phoned the local office to say that the EU would release £60,000 for Burkina Faso if people in East Anglia could raise £20,000 to match it.
Christian Aid’s local Co-ordinator, Eldred Willey, commented: “Melissa has made an amazing breakthrough. This EU offer was previously open to governments and trusts, but her faith and determination has opened it up to ordinary people. Basically the EU is offering to quadruple any money donated over the next two and a half years.”
“For us, this is an unusual arrangement,” he said. “None of the money will go to Christian Aid. This is between the people of East Anglia and Burkina Faso.”
Christian Aid is, however, vouching for the group of Evangelical churches which is running the project, having worked with them successfully before. It is also making its systems available to get the money there.
Melissa’s project will provide wells and irrigation channels for people to begin to plant mango trees and vegetables. As the trees grow, they will stabilise the soil and the climate.
In 1980 Burkina Faso became the symbol of Africa’s desperate poverty, when Pope John Paul II launched his first appeal in its capital, Ougadougou. “I become here the voice of those who have no voice,” he said, “the voice of fathers and mothers who saw their children die…Let us not wait for the sand to bring death again.”
Anyone wishing to support Melissa’s appeal should send cheques payable to Christian Aid c/o Eldred Willey, at Christian Aid, The Kings Centre, King Street, Norwich NR1 1PH so it can be allocated to win the EU funding.
The pictures show Melissa Ilboudo (top) and a farmer in Burkina Faso growing vegetables thanks to a new water supply (below).