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Serge Théophile Balima


The Government of Burkina Faso, in collaboration with its bilateral and multilateral development partners (Canada, the Netherlands, UNICEF, UNESCO, FNUAB, European Union, etc.), decided to draw up the framework for a policy on communication, to specify the roles and functions of various means and tools of communication and, above all, to develop sectorial communication policies with concrete plans of action. The development agencies of the Netherlands and Canada, in particular, have expressed their interest in being involved in the implementation of a national communication for development policy.

The Government accordingly requested the assistance of FAO, through its Technical Cooperation Programme, in the definition of a national communication for development policy and in drawing up a plan of action for its implementation.

This assistance was aimed at helping the Government to assess the current situation regarding communication tools, to formulate a national communication for development policy and to work out the plan of action for its implementation.

It has covered a range of sectorial and thematic studies on the current situation regarding the media and communication for development in Burkina Faso, the organisation of a national workshop with the task of defining the communication for development policy and the drafting of a national communication for development policy with matching plans of action.

This present report will cover five points:

1. The current situation regarding the implementation of the national communication for development policy in Burkina Faso;

2. The steps involved in designing the communication for development policy and, for each step, the various aspects involved in its completion (assets, constraints, obstacles) along with proposals aimed at facilitating their implementation;

3. A review of the implementation process of the national communication policy, from the points of view of decision-makers, the bilateral and multilateral development partners and grassroots stakeholders;

4. The lessons learned, from a methodological perspective, in the processes of drawing up and implementing the policy;

5. The major conclusions and recommendations which could be useful to other countries interested in drawing up a policy for communication for development.

I. The Process of Designing the National Communication for Development Policy in Burkina Faso

The National Communication for Development Policy (NCDP) was adopted at a national workshop organised in July 2000 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, by about one hundred representatives from various national sectors:

The success of this meeting is due to a variety of factors:

Each of these three plenary sessions was followed with great interest by participants, many of whom contributed constructive proposals. After a very lively debate, the meeting adopted, with amendments, a general report of its deliberations.

In order for work to proceed in a focused manner, three working commissions were set up, with concrete goals.


a) Mission

This commission had to examine the results and recommendations of regional meetings with regard to the information and communication needs of the community, as well as training needs in communication for development. Its work included a discussion of various training approaches for journalists and for communicators in other development sectors.

b) Objective


a) Mission

This second commission had to examine the role and place of new and traditional media in the national communication for development policy. Its discussions covered social communication, the public service mission of the media and the potential of ICTs.

The commission also had to discuss priority themes and topics to be promoted in the media and the production of communication tools.

b) Objective


a) Mission

This third commission had to examine the draft policy document and the overall orientation of the plan of action. Its discussions covered the issue of institutional and legal reform and the roles, missions and tasks of the national communication for development policy of Burkina Faso.

b) Objective

A draft document on the national communication for development policy was submitted to the participants in the national workshop for discussion, suggestions and amendment in each of the three commissions. Concrete and constructive proposals were made during this process and they were taken into account during the final drafting of the national policy for communication for rural development.

This policy document was designed through a participatory process with the following steps:

The results of these thematic studies were made available for discussion in the series of regional meetings held between June 1999 and May 2000, as detailed below:





Comoé, Leraba, Kénédougou, Houet



Banwa, Kossi, Mouhoun



Oudalan, Séno, Yagha


Fada N’Gourma

Gnagna, Komandjari, Gourma, Tapoa, Kompienga



Noumbiel, Poni, Bougouriba, Ioba



Les Balé, Tui



Bam, Sanmatenga, Namentenga



Bulkiemdé, Passoré, Sanguié



Kadiogo, Oubritenga, Koulwéogo, Bazega



Yatenga, Loroum, Zandoma, Soum


Nahouri, Sissili, Ziro



Boulgou, Koulpelogo, Kouritenga, Zoundwéogo, Ganzourgou



Sourou, Nayala

Each of these regional workshops were attended by participants representing public and private bodies, associations and grassroots community organisations, NGOs, development projects and civil society organisations. They discussed the following points:

The process of formulating the national communication for development policy of Burkina Faso reached its conclusion in the organisation of the national workshop in Ouagadougou from 24 to 28 July 2000. The objectives of the workshop were attained as follows:

It is at the request of the Government of Burkina Faso that the FAO provided technical and institutional assistance to the process of defining the national communication for development policy.


The principle of the national communication for development policy is rooted in the clear wish of the authorities to find ways and means necessary for ensuring that the people can actively and consciously participate in the development process.

The decision of the Government of Burkina Faso, in collaboration with its bilateral and multilateral development partners, to define the framework of its communication policy demonstrates its clear intention to specify the roles and tasks of various stakeholders by means of sectorial strategies for communication for development with concrete and appropriate action plans.

At the national level, those who can be counted as partners in communication for development are civil society organisations, institutions, associations, technical services, village groupings, decentralised authorities and development projects working in specific areas of rural development.

Following the adoption of the document of the National Communication for Development Policy, a number of concrete initiatives were developed in the field:

The action plan comprises several sections which relate to the major fields of intervention:

1. Circulate the national policy document to various sectors of society, to institutions and to development stakeholders, so that all concerned in development can fully appraise it;

2. Move towards the legal and institutional reforms which will allow for an efficient implementation of the national communication for development policy;

3. Design and implement a development plan which brings together the mass media and the means of proximity communication (local radio, information approaches with video and radio/television back-up, language charts, cinema screenings, drawings, figures and boxes of images) for public information and education in both rural and urban zones;

4. Produce media education programmes using different media which would empower the public to be more autonomous and critical of some press and media programmes;

5. Design sectorial strategies for communication for development which take into account existing projects and initiatives in agriculture, livestock, forestry, environment, health, social action and the promotion of women’s affairs, etc.;

6. Strengthen the human resources capacities of all those involved through training in communication for development;

7. Support research in the specific area of communication for development;

8. Introduce a communication section in all development projects and bodies at the local, regional and national level in order to enable feedback from the grassroots communities.

This support programme is rooted in the political will of the Government of Burkina Faso to apply communication as a way of involving the community in an active and conscious way in economic, social and cultural development. The programme is divided into eight sub-programmes and has a logical framework.



Dissemination of NCDP


Legal and Institutional Reforms


Training and Research in Communication for Development


Development and Decentralisation of Mass Media


Development and Decentralisation of Telecommunications and ICTs


Development of Channels and Means of Proximity Communication


Design of Sectorial Strategies for Communication for Development and for Support to Monitoring and Evaluation


Support to Preparation of Implementation of NCDP





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The contribution of the Government of Burkina Faso consists of a very well-defined set of institutional arrangements. The Ministry in charge of communication is the host of the National Programme for Communication for Development providing its administrative status. It is also the vice-chair of the National Council of Communication for Development.

The Government has taken all necessary measures for facilitating the implementation of the programme and for assisting its staff to obtain those services and facilities which it requires to fulfil its task.

The Government has ensured that there is full exemption of all taxes and duties and has further facilitated the importation of supplies and equipment needed for the implementation of the Programme’s activities.

Further, the Government made available appropriate offices for the operation of the Executive Secretariat (national coordination).

The Executive Secretary (or National Coordinator) of the Programme will be freed of all administrative duties for its duration and will work on a full-time basis on the coordination of implementation activities. (It may be noted that this person has not yet been assigned to the position).

The Government will assume responsibility for 20% of the costs of the Programme, namely approximately FCFA 2,404,000,000 (US$ 3,434,000), this representing the contribution of Burkina Faso as follows:

The Government, finally, will negotiate the contributions of bilateral and multilateral development partners for technical, material and financial assistance for the sound implementation of the Programme.


After the adoption of the national communication for development policy by the Council of Ministers on 14 November 2001, a number of measures have been put into motion:

II. The Methodology for Designing the National Communication for Development Policy of Burkina Faso: Assets and Constraints

The designing of a national policy in the field of communication for rural development requires making optimal use of the assets available in different means of communication, to:

In order to be able to make the best use of these communication assets for developing various sectors of the national programme various positive factors and constraints in the field were listed at each stage of designing the national policy.


a) Assets

The identification of themes and sectors by national consultants has been free from any significant problems. The studies undertaken in Mali, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal provided basic material which served to help define the areas to be covered.

Equally, the process of recruitment of national consultants attracted a great many expressions of interest by candidates of a high-level. Such was the interest that the jury decided to assign two national consultants to each topic and sector. In all 16 national consultants were assigned to the 8 sectorial and thematic studies.

b) Constraints

There were a number of difficulties of an organisational nature in meeting the given deadlines:

As a result, some delays were experienced in implementation and these in turn affected the timetable for the drafting of the NCDP.

c) Suggestions

In terms of a realistic implementation of the work involved, it would be desirable to extend the length of each study by at least 15 days:

i.e. a total of 75 days.


a) Assets

Several institutions cooperated in availing to the consultant facilitating the workshop together with FAO officer from the headquarters, documents and reports, data on human development, development plans, basic texts and policy texts, and the texts and draft texts of regulatory and legislative measures in the areas of economy, governance, culture and society.

b) Constraints

The diversity of the type of documents, texts and reports which were made available did not make the tasks of the consultants any easier. Draft texts, for example, while clarifying some of the intentions of the public authorities, had the disadvantage of not having any definitive value.

c) Suggestions

Consideration should be given to having a national consultant draw up the reference document along with the terms of reference, including in this the fundamental aspects of the economy, the nature of political governance and aspects of social and cultural development.


a) Assets

The effective presence of the FAO headquarters officer helped in the presentation of the objectives of the NCDP, and in the explanation of the concepts, elements, principles, methods and applications of this new approach to communication.

It must be noted that the experience of the FAO headquarters officer and his perfect knowledge of the technical documents were a great asset for the workshop.

Equally, the availability of the national consultants should be noted, and of their assiduous and active participation throughout the event.

b) Constraints

It is felt that too little time was allocated to the event, taking into account that some consultants, while being technically competent, were not too familiar with the concepts of communication for development.

c) Suggestions

Consideration should be given including a place in the agenda of such a workshop where each consultant presents his/her approach to the theme or sector to be studied, using the knowledge gained in the workshop. This would ensure that the working method is properly learned by all participants.


a) Assets

The recruited consultants benefited from the training workshop to acquire a methodological basis for the diagnostic studies.

b) Constraints

It must be noted that not all participants fully assimilated the active methods of participatory research.

c) Suggestions

Working sessions could be added into the programme of the training workshop to further strengthen the consultants’ capacities in the participatory approach.


a) Assets

The field surveys in each region resulted in an overview of the information and communication needs of the rural communities.

The analysis of the survey data, and their presentation by region, were shown to be sound methods for identifying community expectations according to their geographical, socio-economic and cultural areas.

The fact that in all, 13 workshops were held provided an opportunity for many representatives of associations, village groupings, NGOs and technical services to express their opinions on the fundamental issues of communication and development.

b) Constraints

The number of workshops can be seen as being somewhat high, for a variety of reasons:

c) Suggestions

It would be useful for the number of meetings to be decided upon in relation to the specific nature of regional bodies and to available transport. The number of participants in a workshop could be increased, and the workshop itself could be extended from three to five days.

This would save time and would also create opportunities for larger and more substantive meetings.


a) Assets

The advantage of the summary of the thematic and sectorial studies is that the participants in the national workshop could be presented with the major conclusions, strengths and weaknesses of each area covered. It also provides the opportunity for interactive exchange between the various stakeholders and partners in the developments taking place in the field.

b) Constraints

The production of the summary is a difficult exercise. It requires all the studies being completed on time, as well as a National Coordinator with intellectual capacities and an ability to synthesise and paint a thorough picture of the various issues which can lead to constructive change.

c) Suggestions

It is suggested that each consultant having worked on a sectorial or thematic study should propose a summary of the main conclusions of his work. This would facilitate the drafting of the summary document.


a) Assets

The laudable efforts made by the more than 100 representatives of regions and provinces, NGOs, State bodies and members of civil society to effectively participate in the national workshops clearly bear witness to the level of interest generated at all levels of society by the process of drawing up a national policy.

The media, religious faiths and the representatives of development partners equally showed their interest in taking an active part in the exercise.

The various commissions were organised in such a way that the various representatives of bodies, organisations and institutions were spread over in a balanced fashion.

b) Constraints

There were a number of organisational constraints arising from the meeting facilities being dispersed (with plenary and group sessions in different locations). These, and the acoustics of the meeting rooms, led to some logistical problems.

Further, it was noted that some keenly interested individuals, without any mandate from their organisation, sought to impose themselves as participants. This created some problems for the organisers.

Finally, the cost of reproduction of the documents for the meeting was higher than planned, given the high level of interest in the national workshop.

c) Suggestions

At the time of the regional workshops, most participants are in fact interested in attending the national event. Consideration should be given to finding a better way of designating delegates through regional quotas for:


1. Assets

The Programme is based on proposals and recommendations from regional workshops and the national workshop.

There is a clear and genuine desire on the part of the development stakeholders, decision-makers, NGOs and associations to promote communication for development.

A manifested interest on the part of development partners has been shown during the drafting of the national programme of communication for development.

The Government is committed to making its contribution to the implementation of the National Programme of Communication for Development.

b) Constraints

A major constraint is the lack of funding, in the short-term for the implementation of the Programme.

The organisational procedures involved in the round-table meeting of donor agencies are seen to have been time-consuming and resulting in delays.

The political will of some national decision-makers are seen as being somewhat reticent with regard to the National Programme of Communication for Development.

III. Implementation of the National Communication for Development Policy

The implementation of the National Programme of Communication for Development requires a convergence of the conditions necessary for the transmission, broadcasting and reception of messages to and by the community. This means that all those involved in the execution of development programmes, of projects and development associations should have communication skills in the popularisation of scientific and technical information and in the preparation of tools for proximity communication (slides, images, technical booklets, brochures, audio and video cassettes, etc.)

For this to be achieved, the implementation of the recommendations of the national workshop is essential.


There are a number of steps (to be) taken by the public authorities:


An information meeting on the objectives of the NCDP held in June 2000 brought various bilateral and multilateral development partners together with the Minister for Information.

On the basis of reactions received, the following conclusions can be reached:

1. The drawing up of a NCDP is much appreciated;

2. Many development partners of Burkina Faso have expressed their interest in a support programme which takes into account the goal of sustainable human development in the eradication of poverty

3. The FAO is prepared to provide technical support and share its experience in the effective implementation of the project;

4. With the NCDP very much in mind, the Government of Burkina Faso, in collaboration with the UNDP, has drawn up a project for the establishment of a network of community radios in the country. These will be managed entirely by associations working for grassroots communities.

The UNDP and the Government of Burkina Faso see this project as a means of overcoming various constraints and short-comings in rural communication, and to provide to the most disadvantaged rural communities a new, low-cost technology for developing proximity communication. Priority will be given to broadcasts based on the real concerns of the communities; they will form a permanent dialogue with listeners through a widespread presence of broadcasting teams in the field. This approach will not only serve to identify the communication and information needs of local communities but equally to respond to them.


The designing of the national communication for development policy has served clearly to awaken the interest of associations, groupings and civil society organisations in information and communication.

The advances made in democratic governance, as well as the general process of decentralisation, have led grassroots communities to participate more in civic life. The number of community or association radio stations is ever increasing, representing forty (40) out of a total of sixty (60) private stations.

These achievements make it possible to conceive of this project for a community radio network to be managed by associations outside the control of the State and political parties.

The Permanent Secretariat of NGOs (Secrétariat Permanent des Organisations Non- Gouvernementales - SPONG) has a national entity for capacity building in civil society organisations and this is crucial for the implementation of the NCDP at the grassroots level.

IV. Lessons Learnt

1. The descriptive diagnosis made in the studies of communication topics and sectors can provide clear guidance towards action, but only if they are undertaken by consultants who are both competent and capable of independent analysis.

2. It is important for the consultants to have a prior knowledge and experience of communication for development. It is unfortunate that, for reasons of shortage of time for proper exercise, the training provided, while being indispensable, remains limited.

3. A number of the thematic and sectorial studies would benefit from being reformulated, or split into separate studies, in order to pay particular attention to the following points:

4. The summary of the thematic and sectorial studies should be presented to the regional workshops at the same time as the results of the regional surveys. This would help to deepen the various elements of the diagnostic process.

5. The involvement of technical ministries should not be in the hands of the ministry responsible for the project but in those of the Head of the Government. This would ensure the proper involvement of various ministerial sectors in the objectives of the NCDP.

6. More attention should be paid to the involvement of women in participation at regional workshops and the national workshop. They are often under-represented at this type of forums.

7. In the framework of thematic and sectorial studies, consideration should be given to sectorial communication strategies at the level of institutions, ministries and development projects. This would provide a picture of the various approaches in use and thereby facilitate a synergy of initiatives and methods.

V. Recommendations to Countries Interested in Designing a National Communication for Development Policy

A national communication for development policy is a new approach based upon the need to promote information as a way of achieving the effective involvement and participation of the community in the process of economic, social, political and cultural development.

Based on the experience built up in Burkina Faso, it is possible to make a number of recommendations to countries interested in designing a national communication for development policy.

1. It is important to fully understand the national context for drawing up such a policy, in order to have a clear picture of the strengths and weaknesses. It is equally important to have a clear picture of the institutional and political framework and to understand the nature of good governance achieved by the leadership and the degree of civic participation by development stakeholders. In all cases, it is essential to have a democratic framework for the sound drawing up of a national communication for development policy.

2. It is similarly important to sensitise and make aware national decision-makers and legislators to adopt a new approach to the media which will allow various parts of urban and rural society to express themselves and to ensure that their development priorities and needs are properly noted.

3. In the appointment of a National Coordinator, the criteria of competence and experience are fundamental, without neglecting the aspects of personality and powers of persuasion. All these factors will be necessary in the task of coordination of sectorial initiatives in communication.

4. During the process of designing the NCDP, it is important to dwell upon the human resources available for taking on the project. There is a need for someone who is credible and open and has good contact skills, able to explain the content of the programme to partners and to decision-makers. This person should be assisted by a team of staff and should maintain contacts with those ministries involved in development, with civil society organisations and with organisations working in rural areas.

5. The person in this position should enjoy at least the minimal requirements for his or her task, i.e. an office, a telephone line, a fax machine, a computer and an e-mail, etc.

6. The task of drawing up the support programme for the implementation of the NCDP should be undertaken by a multi-disciplinary team under the responsibility of the National Coordinator. A rigorous approach should be taken in the budgeting of activities, in giving indicators of the results expected from each action, and in specifying sources, means of verifications and costs, by objective.

7. It is also important to ensure that development partners are fully briefed on the draft programme, and to gather their amendments and observations before finalising the document.

8. Before the support programme (action programme) is submitted to the Council of Ministers for approval, a validation workshop should be held with the representatives of the different ministries involved in development, NGOs, development projects, and organisations representative of urban and rural civil society.

9. Prodigious efforts need to be invested in the preparation of the round-table meeting with development partners on the funding of the action programme. This includes the establishment of a technical commission composed of a representative of the Ministry in charge of the project, the Ministry in charge of Economic Affairs and Finance, the Ministry for Social Affairs and the Ministry for rural development. This commission will prepare various documents to be submitted to donor agencies, and will organise information meetings with bilateral and multilateral development partners.

10. After the definition of the NCDP, a determining phase starts, whereby political will has to be translated into sustained mobilisation of energy and resources required for the programme’s implementation.

11. When the project of definition has been completed, the government should strive to persuade the FAO to reassign all its equipment (in particular, its vehicle) to the national project, in order to facilitate the continuation of work in the field. Without this, progress could be slowed down for logistical and material reasons.

12. The institution with the administrative responsibility for the implementation of the programme should have the means to positively motivate the National Coordinator, not only from the perspective of the volume of work but also because the task requires a heavy human investment.

13. A degree of attention should be paid to the monitoring and evaluation of the programme’s implementation. This in turn requires drawing up an implementation timetable involving sectorial bodies and the various partners involved.

14. The establishment of the national body (the National Council for Communication for Development), chaired by the Head of Government, should become effective as soon as the programme of action is approved by the Government. This body, with its inter-sectorial character, and the authority of its chairperson, is in a position, once operational, to positively influence the course of implementation.

15. The commitments made by the Government (tax exemptions, importation facilities for supplies and equipment for the programme) must be met, in order to encourage the contribution of development partners in terms of technical, material and financial support.

16. Finally, it is essential that journalists from the public and private sector be well informed of the principles and objectives of communication for development, for the entire project to be better understood by actors for development. Without this, the project could encounter a lack of understanding at some levels and this could lead to a distortion of information in the field and in mass circulation media.


The process of designing a national communication for development policy had the following outcomes:

The support provided by the FAO has been of a crucial nature:

The extension in the duration of the project on the definition of the national communication for development policy led to a significant increase in the budget for operational costs.

The Government of Burkina Faso has taken all the necessary steps to facilitate the execution of the project and to assist the personnel of FAO to obtain access to those services and facilities required for the fulfilment of their task.

Concluding thanks to FAO and the Ministry in charge of Communication for all the support provided to the implementation of the project during the process of 18 months which led to the organisation of the national workshop.

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