Ray of Light in Tangaye

Speeches Shim

Friday, July 23, 2021
A solar lamp in Tangaye, Burkina Faso

Solar powered streetlights and public benches improve economic opportunities and increase positive interactions among community members in Tangaye, Burkina Faso.

"I am very grateful for this support. Before, we were afraid to gather at night but now we meet every night, we have very interesting discussions, including on social cohesion.” 

- Ami, a community member

Violent extremist organizations (VEOs) have repeatedly threatened and attacked Tangaye, a rural commune  in northern Burkina Faso, over the past three years. These events have led to widespread feelings of fear and mistrust in the community, especially at night, when the streets plunge into darkness due to a lack of adequate lighting. The ramifications of the deteriorating security situation in recent years are extensive, impacting many formerly commonplace activities in the community. While community members used to congregate in the evenings to discuss issues affecting their neighborhoods, people have been unable to do so due to security concerns. This inability to gather has as a result, undermined the traditional community mechanisms in Tangaye designed to promote peaceful cohabitation, shared values, and a sense of community. 

These VEO-created conditions in Tangaye negatively impact people’s daily lives, and fear is a difficult adversary to target and mitigate. Recognizing this and aiming to improve living conditions in the commune, the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives’ (OTI) Burkina Faso Regional Program (BFRP) and Tangaye Mayor's Office examined the situation and decided to quite literally use light to drive out the darkness affecting the commune. BFRP and the Mayor’s Office partnered to install 15 solar powered streetlights and 30 public benches in popular public areas to not only improve safety, but also, more importantly—when dealing with something as insidious as fear—perceptions of security in those public locations, because community members considered them dangerous at night. Since the installations took place, local authorities and community members have reported that the streetlights dissuade VEOs from entering the commune at night and helped restore feelings of safety amongst Tangaye residents, which increases positive interactions among community members and revitalizes socioeconomic life. 

Ami, a community member, said, "I am very grateful for this support. Before, we were afraid to gather at night but now we meet every night, we have very interesting discussions, including on social cohesion..."

BFRP support included creating a management committee composed of five community members who were trained on streetlight maintenance and safety procedures, and providing maintenance kits to make small repairs as-needed. During the official handover ceremony, local authorities and community representatives – including women and youth — praised this support that, for them, contributes to reducing insecurity in Tangaye and provides a safe space for discussions and sharing experiences, ideas, and initiatives for the development of their commune. The Mayor of Tangaye declared that the solar streetlights have transformed the town and positively impacted the social and economic life of the commune. He noted the local students who were preparing for their end-of-year exams met every night to study under the solar streetlight located at the Tangaye primary school. Thanks to the light, a butcher started a meat grilling business that now attracts many customers in the evenings. At the Youth Center, the new lights inspired enthusiasm among local youth to take part in recreational activities and the entrance fees allow those in charge of the center to raise funds to operate. Women also take advantage of these solar streetlights to sell peanuts and other snacks, thus making more money to meet their needs.

"Above all, these solar [streetlights] have enabled local authorities to meet an essential need of communities [for security] by improving the feeling of security and strengthening interactions between communities themselves and between authorities and communities," affirmed the Mayor of Tangaye. 

Last updated: September 12, 2022

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