The Multifunctional Platform: lightening the burden of Burkinabe women

21 Apr 2010

Although the Millennium Development Goals specifically mention energy-related issues, this sector represents an essential component of the fight against poverty.

In Burkina Faso, UNDP worked with the government to address this reality by implementing the National Multifunctional Platform Programme in the fight against poverty. The multifunctional platform consists of a diesel engine and various associated tools: grinding mills, huskers, alternators, battery chargers, pumps, welding stations, and carpentry equipment. It can also be used to distribute water and electricity. This simple machine assists women with long and laborious chores, and allows them time to generate new income streams.

This financial autonomy helps to increase women’s independence and improves their socio-economic situation. Women also have more time to dedicate to their well-being and personal development, as well as that of their children.

The program is based on a participatory model that promotes the creation, development, and modernization of artisanal activities in villages. The multifunctional platforms are installed and maintained by independent artisans.

Many other donors provide funding for the programme: Aarhus United, the government of Luxembourg, the Shell Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Kuwaiti telecom company Zain, for a total amount of $33,500,000.

Results

A study of time management with the platforms indicates that women spend at least two to four hours each day on household chores. The time saved allows them to pursue self-improvement opportunities, often by taking literacy classes in buildings where electricity is provided by the platform. Accordingly, the installation of platforms was followed by a 10 percent increase in literacy rates in 14 villages in the eastern region of the country.

Agricultural production and employment (for millers, welders, repairpersons, etc.) has increased in nearly all villages where platforms have been installed.  Additionally, business generated by platforms has helped women save an average of $55 per month, compared to $11 annually under normal circumstances.

To date, 431 platforms have been installed in eight regions in Burkina Faso. 600,000 people, among them 24,000 women, benefit directly from the platforms. 1,400 new platforms will be installed between 2011 and 2015 for the benefit of 2.5 million people, i.e. 23 percent of the country's population. During this phase, UNDP will focus primarily on the reinforcement of economic activities around the platforms, and on the development of female entrepreneurship in rural environments.

Lessons learned

Experiences with the multifunctional platforms were the subject of the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women held in March 2010, in New York.

For Ruby Sandhu-Rojon, Country Director of UNDP in Burkina Faso, “the multifunctional platform is proof that, by using technology, we can achieve the third Millennium Goal and at the same time, help increase access to energy, reduce poverty, and promote gender equality.” Following Mrs. Sandhu-Rojon’s presentation, representatives from Cameroon, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire and Zambia reported that they would like to see the programme implemented in their countries.

Similarly, ECOWAS Small Arms Programme (ECOSAP) wanted to integrate the platforms into their regional energy policy. The Climate Investment Funds (CIF) Partnership Forum organized by The World Bank in the Philippines will also consider implementing the platforms in their programs.

ECOSAP is committed to helping countries in West Africa achieve Millennium Development Goals. Through the adoption of a regional policy, ECOSAP seeks to reproduce the experience of multifunctional platforms and improve energy access for rural populations. UNDP is acting as ECOSAP's primary interlocutor during the implementation of this policy.