Unwrap Potential Series: Opportunity

Dec 28, 2022 | Farms

Yamwaoga Sam, 40 years old, has lived a difficult life. She has been mute since she was a child, apparently the result of a case of meningitis – though her family is not exactly sure.  While Yamwaoga is unable to speak, she can interpret a language of signs her family has developed with her over the years. It’s through these signs and in conversation with her daughter and uncle that we are able to learn more about Yamwaoga’s life.

Veronica Zulu, center with sweater, listens in one of her classes.

Yamwaoga (left) helping another woman on the farm to harvest peppers. 

Yamwaoga lives in the rural Burkina Faso community of Komsnedego. Approximately 1,200 people live in and around Komsnedego, the vast majority of whom are subsistence farmers, meaning they survive off the land they cultivate.  Unfortunately, due to climate change, the farmers have been subject to an increasingly unpredictable rainy season to grow food to sustain their families and livelihoods, leading to smaller yields.  As a result, during the leaner months, it’s not uncommon for families to survive off only one meal a day.


Veronica Zulu sits on her hostel bed she sleeps on while at school.

Yamwaoga smiles after harvesting some millet. 

Yamwaoga never attended school.  Considering her disability, her family didn’t think she would benefit from an education. Instead, when she was old enough, Yamwaoga was married off and had two children. Unfortunately, her husband was abusive, and she eventually left him and returned to live with her mother and uncles in Komsendego, where she has a small home in an isolated corner of the property. She resides there with her youngest daughter, Mélène, who is now in Grade 7. 

Veronica with her hand raised, ready to ask one of her teacher's questions.

Yamwaoga (right) with her daughter Mélène.

As a disabled woman in a rural community in Burkina Faso with no education and no husband, opportunities for financial independence for Yamwaoga are limited. That’s why when The Sonder Project began to develop a solar-irrigated community farm in Komsnedego, she jumped at the chance to become a member. In fact, 78% of our 109 farm members are women because it is unlikely women will have access to their own land any other way.

Veronica Zulu sits with a group of friends along with two of The Sonder Project staff members in Malawi during a break period.

Women from the community farm after harvesting eggplants and tomatoes.  Yamwaoga is the 5th person from the right.

Since becoming a member of The Sonder Project farm, our Agricultural Field Coordinator, Wielfried Lompo says, “Yamwaoga has proven herself to be one of the most hardworking and collaborating members of the community, always creating a warm and positive atmosphere of teamwork despite her condition.”  Most importantly, Yamwaoga is now able to reliably grow food year-round, increasing her family’s annual yield and her income.  

Yamwaoga is even more excited for our new plan in 2023 to divide the land into individual plots, so members can take responsibility for their own area. Members will pay an annual rental fee as well as a small portion of their earnings back to a community fund that will be used to maintain the farm and support local initiatives. What will Yamwaoga do with the funds she is able to earn? She wants to be able to pay for her daughter Mélène to stay in school and pursue a career outside the farm. The Sonder Project community farm has unwrapped that opportunity for Yamwaoga and her family’s future.


Consider donating to The Sonder Project this holiday season and help us unwrap the opportunity of food security and economic independence for more women like Yamwaoga.


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