Eric Bayala| PhD Candidate, University of Innsbruck
Since colonial times the region of Central East in Burkina Faso and especially the province of Boulgou has been the place of outmigration because of forced labor, ecological conditions and the epidemic of onchocerciases (sleeping disease). People of this province were sent as forced workers to Ivory Coast and Senegal. Others left the region and went to Ghana or to another region of Upper-Volta, today Burkina Faso (Blion and Bredeloup, 1997; Zongo, 2004).
My PhD project investigates, which impacts collective remittances of a diaspora group have on the resilience of the rural community and their household members. Literature on remittances generally refers to money sent by migrants to their family members in their country of origin. Besides such financial remittances, my research looked into the role of social remittances e.g. social relations between diaspora members and members of their home community, which transmit knowledge, skills and attitudes in Niaogho in Burkina Faso. For this purpose, a field research was conducted from April 2018 until March 2020 in Italy and in Burkina Faso. It focused on community resilience (in terms of financial, social and environmental capital), aimed to highlight the impact of the collective supports of diaspora, trans-migrants, and returned migrants who live in Lombardy (in Italy) on community health pathways in the rural municipality of Niaogho (Burkina Faso). Two community projects that were financed by a diaspora association in Italy are studied in a case study: the construction of a health center and of a drugstore. To measure the impact of these collective investments, I conducted a household survey in Niaogho. Furthermore, data from the government of Burkina-Faso, experts’ interviews and focus groups complemented the data generated. A final workshop validated the data and results.
Objective of the field research and Methodology
The research aimed to uncover the effects of investments in health infrastructure by diaspora of Niaogho and the related changes of social practices on the resilience of households as well as of the entire community of Niaogho. The PhD explores type of social remittances that diaspora and transmigrants generated through their interactions with household and community members in Niaogho. We further look into the type of social remittances and their transformative their effects first at household level and then at community level. In fact, the field research focused on health-related interventions, both in terms of infrastructure and in terms of knowledge transfer regarding prevention and cure of diseases. However, research highlights the intervention of a woman group of the hometown association called “Association des Ressortissants de Niaogho en Italie (ARNI)” in Niaogho. This woman group of ARNI works with women of Niaogho on topic related to healthcare.
Firstly, results show that the construction of a second health center enables the division of the municipality of Niaogho into two sanitary areas. Yet, more women from remote areas of the municipality have access to health center. Further, results indicate that supports of health infrastructure by diaspora organizations have not only a positive impact on the accessibility and quality of services, but also reinforces the knowledge and practices of the populations toward malaria, infectious diseases, mother child health and hygiene. Members of the diaspora are taken as role models in terms of health-related behavior.
Secondly, interactions of Diaspora, transmigrants and return migrants with community members of Niaogho generate social and cultural forms of remittances. For example, regarding prenatal and postnatal advices, results revealed the strong influence of men in the family planning, especially the one who live in the diaspora. In fact, if the family planning or the contraception was long the “ business “ of women, nowadays numerous interventions in health sector in Burkina Faso try to integrate men in the mother and healthcare programms. But, men living abroad influence the behavior and attitudes of their wives in Niaogho. Moreover, the use of contraception raises problems for some couples, especially the one who are religious, traditional or women whose husbands live abroad. Others results regarding trust, suggest that trust reinforces the share, the circulation and acceptance of health related knowledge and information. Trust is an important component of health seeking behaviour. Without trust in health workers, patients would not regularly visit the health centers. Moreover, trust and health outcomes may mutually affect each other for the wellbeing of patients and there is positive relationship between the use of healthcare services and trust.
Thirdly, during their visits to Niaogho, migrants transmitted and share through advices, norms and valued that acquired abroad. Indeed, awareness raising activities and health advice by diaspora women group help to reduce cases of diseases. These activities are beneficial for the entire community members of Niaogho and the education and awareness activities are conducted with volunteers from Italy in collaboration with local health and social workers from Niaogho for all community members. The knowledge transferred by diaspora for family planning, mother-child-healthcare are diverse appreciated by families with diaspora connections and the one without diaspora connection.
However, the financing of physical infrastructures affects health-related practices and behavior, especially through the interaction between diaspora women association and women groups in Niaogho.
Findings show that diaspora generates social remittances though their interaction with the local population in Niaogho have transformative effects and enhance health resilience of households and community members in Niaogho. Thus, diaspora shapes and prepares community members to innovate and to accept changes.
Positive behaviors acquired by the diaspora in their host countries and put into practice during their stays are often “copied” and “imitated” by the locals. Usually, migrants are highly respected by the locals population and they may influence culturally engrained practices, such as health-related behavior, gender equality, and trust.
Other findings suggest negative impacts of social remittances at the household and at the community level. In fact, there is a tendency of decreasing dependency on each other within the community in favour of institutional support through the health center and in favour of outside help and private health care (households with diaspora connection). If help from outside is fast and efficient, there is no need to turn to other community members in case of financial problems.
Migration enables a transfer of social capital and brings innovation, fosters changes in traditional communities (de Haas, 2007) and in daily practices toward health. In fact, the one with diaspora connection are more opened to health treatments, and there are better informed. But, they are less respectful toward health workers and there are less patient than the one without diaspora connection.