2007-2009: In the beginning
The tsunami disaster occurred in 2004. Major relief efforts were initiated, but the way the funds were spent prompted Werner Sels and Wim Jacobs to make positive progress themselves. Not to compensate politicians or wealthy hotel owners, but to make a structural difference. Intervening and turning the tide, by investing in the conditions of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs Without Borders. Creating a fertile soil, a fertile project so that wealth creation would be possible. Investing instead of donating.
We follow the principle: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.
But where to invest? What can we do? A number of questions played an important role in our search. What are the mechanisms that encourage the exploitation of man and nature? What makes people migrate? How can we deploy people with a high or low level of education? How can we implement sustainability so that we can maximise the value of the positive impacts we achieve? How to maximise socio-economic and ecological impacts by preserving balances?
We chose Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world. At that time it was a relatively safe and politically stable country. After visiting and researching many projects, our attention was drawn to people who migrated from the north of Burkina Faso to the south (internal migrations). These people went to the capital, Ouagadougou, to find work. This is often not possible and migration to neighbouring countries such as the Ivory Coast is being considered in order to find work in plantations there. Not always in dignified circumstances. If it fails to do so, it will be tempting to cross over to the EU. After all, if people have nothing to lose, irresponsible risks are taken. Then they raise money from the family and choose to risk their own lives to cross over to Europe, the world's largest commercial economy. Who doesn't want to take part in this?
But what is causing the start of internal migrations? What makes someone decide to migrate, because migration may involve creating conflicts? What are the conditions for migrating? A question that has led us to the north of Burkina Faso. Today, a region is as dangerous as Mali. Since 2011 (after the fall of Gaddafi), dubious militias have been making the region unsafe again.
In the Sahel of Burkina Faso we saw that there are large areas where nothing is growing anymore. No grass. No trees. Or a crop. What could we do? How could we rectify this?
Back in Belgium, we contacted Professor Dr. Ir. Patrick Van Damme (Faculty of Tropical Agriculture). He set us on the track and explained the to do's and not to do's.
2010-2017: ~10.000ha of new forest in Burkina Faso
Together with a lot of volunteers, we started at the beginning of 2010. The first 100 hectares of agrobos were built in Lilengo. We didn't know then, but Lilengo means "The naked earth". A coincidence with meaning....
By the end of 2017, almost 10,000 ha of new agroforestry had been created. We have demonstrated a proof of concept in this way.
By creating agroforests in response to the climate disturbance we cause as human beings, we stop desertification, make the land fertile again to be able to revive profitable agriculture, increase biodiversity (fauna and flora), enable children to go back to school, make access to drinking water easier, ensure gender equality in forests (independentcy of women) and... last but not least, by planting forest on the edge of the desert, OZG has created the conditions to slow down or stop migrations.
Burkina Faso can now proceed autonomously and it is now up to the Burkinese population to further develop and invest their country with an eye for all actors with a positive impact on both the socio-economic and the ecological.
2018: herhalen in andere landen
From 2018 onwards we will be setting up the same process in Senegal, so that even there in the most difficult areas (< 300mm rain/y) a micro-economy can be created and prosperity can be provided, so we can also give people and nature a future there. More about this later this year... (Follow is on the News Blog)