FinDev Interview

Working to Promote Food Security in Burkina Faso

Claire Lossiané of YIKRI, winner of the 2023 European Microfinance Award, reflects on the MFI’s programs to combat malnutrition
Headshot of YIKRI Director Claire Lossiané.

Nomwende Claire Lossiané/Sawadogo has over 28 years of experience working in the microfinance sector in Burkina Faso. She is currently the Executive Director of the microfinance institution YIKRI, where she oversees a team of 109 employees working to promote the well-being of more than 39,000 clients. She is also the founding president of the International Association of Ambassadors in Agricultural and Rural Finance in Africa.

FinDev Gateway: Congratulations on winning the 2023 European Microfinance Award: “Inclusive Finance for Food Security and Nutrition.” Could you tell us more about YIKRI and the context in which this microfinance institution was launched?  

Claire Lossiané:YIKRI is a social microfinance institution based in Burkina Faso. Its name, which means “emergence” in Mooré, a local language of Burkina Faso, reflects its objective to encourage and promote the economic and social upliftment of the most vulnerable populations. This initiative was spearheaded and supported by Entrepreneurs du Monde, a French association working in the field of social microfinance and social entrepreneurship.  

Launched in 2015 in the context of the fight against poverty and food insecurity in Burkina Faso, part of YIKRI’s mission is to offer a financial alternative to population groups excluded from the traditional financial system. However, YIKRI also provides non-financial services, such as counseling and social support to help clients develop their economic activities in a sustainable manner.  

The conferral of the 2023 European Microfinance Award has, we believe, honored our commitment to improving the living conditions of the most vulnerable populations and recognized the impact we have had in this area. 

FinDev:How does YIKRI address the food health issue in Burkina Faso, where food insecurity levels are among the highest in the world? 

Claire: We provide an integrated and inclusive package of services aimed at strengthening food security in Burkina Faso. It includes agricultural credit lines tailored to the needs of smallholder farmers, hands-on training and advice on agricultural techniques to improve farming practices and yields, as well as social and economic training to build clients’ capacity. 

Our program addresses the challenge of food security in Burkina Faso by offering direct support to those at the heart of the country's food production, namely local farmers.  By building the capacity of smallholder farmers and helping them access the resources they need, such as credit to invest in equipment, inputs and sustainable farming practices, we help increase food production and enhance diet quality. 

FinDev: Besides supporting food production, how does YIKRI work to affect smallholders’ nutrition and eating habits?

Claire: Our social workers and agricultural technical advisors raise awareness and support smallholder farmers to enhance their access to a nutritious and balanced diet and improve their eating habits through a variety of different training sessions.

Topics related to food production include:

  • The selection of the best seeds. 
  • Effective cultivation techniques. 
  • Pest and disease management. 
  • Crop conservation methods.

Other training topics focus on food preparation and eating habits, such as:

  • The importance of a balanced diet. 
  • Practical tips for preparing nutritious meals from affordable local produce. 
  • Food hygiene and food safety guidelines.

In 2023, we held 5,554 training sessions and connected producers and food processors.

At the same time, we have developed agricultural value chains in the maize and poultry sectors, using an approach that places clients at the center of each link in the chain, in order to connect all the relevant actors from farm to fork (from production to marketing). This approach makes it easier to connect producers with resellers, thus guaranteeing a market for their products and promoting their integration into local commercial channels.

Our program addresses the challenge of food security in Burkina Faso by offering direct support to those at the heart of the country's food production, namely local farmers. 

FinDev: YIKRI’s mission is to improve the lives of the most vulnerable populations, including those most affected by malnutrition. How do you support them, and what kind of impact on poverty have you seen?

Claire: Social workers work closely with specialized local bodies to identify the most vulnerable families. Our social workers organize educational talks on sensitive gender-related topics. These discussions allow men and women to understand each other better and to integrate a gendered approach into their daily activities. By promoting dialogue and reflection on issues related to gender equality and equity, we encourage balanced participation of male and female clients in agricultural activities to facilitate informed and gender-sensitive decision-making.

Our clients also have access to mutual health insurance that covers 60 percent of their expenses for medical care (including three dependents).

The impact of these programs on poverty reduction is significant, strengthening the health and resilience of the most vulnerable families and promoting their economic and social empowerment.  

For example, in 2023, we recorded:

FinDev: What is the focus for YIKRI moving forward? How will you use the European Microfinance Award prize money?

Claire: We will focus on sustaining and strengthening our actions to combat poverty and food insecurity in Burkina Faso. We intend to pay special attention to internally displaced persons and their host families by developing new products adapted to their specific needs, such as targeted training programs and loans geared to promising professions.  

We also plan to digitize our credit process and the collection of socioeconomic profile monitoring data to respond more effectively to our clients’ needs.

Lastly, a gender unit will be set up to ensure a gender culture within YIKRI that guarantees social cohesion for a fulfilling work environment for staff.   

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