Modes of production, solidarity networks and fertility in Burkina Faso

External Link:
Thematic Focus:
Involved Countries:
Switzerland, Burkina Faso

Received Funding By:

Prof. Clémentine Rossier,
Institut de démographie et de socioéconomie (IDESO),
Université de Genève (UNIGE)

African Partner

Dr Moussa Bougma,
Institut supérieur des sciences de la population (ISSP),
University Joseph Ki Zerbo Ouagadougou

Project outline 

Link to Kick – starting project n°7 “INDEPTH fertility and SRH working group”

INDEPTH is a network of health and demographic surveillance sites in low and middle-income countries with incomplete vital statistics (/http://www.indepthnetwork. org/). Kick-starting project n°7 supported the creation of an INDEPTH working group led by Prof. C. Rossier (2014-2017) to analyze the data on births routinely produced in the sites. The group concluded that the lack of explanatory variables in the surveillance data impedes the production of new knowledge on fertility, despite the potential of cross-site analysis to understand obstacles to fertility declines in sub-Saharan Africa (Rossier et al. 2020).

In line with this need of data on explanatory factors of fertility, the Ouagadougou demographic surveillance site at the periphery of the capital city of Burkina Faso (Rossier et al. 2012) hosted a first research project in 2012 on the role of schooling investments for fertility outcomes (Bougma et al. 2014a, 14b). Expanding this line of research, Dr Bougma proposed a project on “Modes of production, solidarity networks and fertility in Burkina Faso” in two INDEPTH sites, one rural (Nouna) (Sié et al. 2010) and one urban (Ouagadougou) which was accepted for funding by the programme “Renforcement des capacité

s, production et diffusion de connaissance sur la population burkinabè” by the European Union (2017-2021). In preparation of the “solidarity networks” questionnaire for the study, Dr Bougma spent one month at the University of Geneva in Fall 2019 and benefitted from the advice of Prof. E. Widmer, world leading family sociologist and social network specialist, with whom Prof. C. Rossier works closely. Dr Bougma agreed at this occasion to add some questions on health to be used by S. Sanogo, beneficiary of a Swiss Governement Excellence Scholarshop for a PhD (2020-2023) on family network support and health in developing countries under the direction of Prof. C. Rossier. However, given budget constraints, only a minimal social network questionnaire and a few health questions were introduced in the EU study. Moreover, given budget constraints, the EU project contrasts simply the urban and the rural sites, leaving out difference between formal and informal areas in the capital and between the small town and its surrounding villages in Nouna.

These additional funds will allow the research team to: (i) increase the size of the questionnaire module on social network and network solidarities to allow for the full implementation of Prof. Widmer’s “family network” methodology; (ii) introduce an entire module on health behaviors; (iii) double the size of the sample to add two new strata enabling a contrast between formal and informal areas in Ouagadougou and the town and villages in Nouna, with n= 1500 respondents in each of the four strata; (iv) add a qualitative component to the study to investigate the relationships put forth in the quantitative data.

Project outline

Background and rationale: In recent decades, sub-Saharan Africa has gone through spectacular changes linked to the development of a market economy and advances in public services. Infant mortality has fallen, children’ s schooling has increased, and urbanization has progressed. These changes have given rise to new reproductive behaviors (increasing age at first union, fewer arranged marriages, greater premarital sexuality, etc.) (Traoré, 2003; Locoh and Mouvagha-Sow, 2005). Fertility has declined as well, especially in urban areas: as in other regions of the world, parents who attain a certain socioeconomic status invest massively in the formal education of their children and reduce their family size; this change has been facilitated by growing contraceptive use (Locoh and Mouvagha-Sow, 2005; Vimard and Fassassi, 2007).

Certain sub-Saharan African regions are holding back however. In particular, fertility has been slow to decline in the countries of Western Sahelian Africa (Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger). The difference in fertility between these countries and the sub-Saharan average was small in 1970-1975 (7.3 versus 6.8 children per women, a difference of 0.5), but had reached 2.2 children per woman by the 2000s; this difference is still 1.32 children in 2015-2020 (Traoré, 2003; United Nations, 2019). The Western African Sahel thus remains, as underlined by Traore (2003, p. 73), “the last bastion of high fertility, in Africa and in the world“. This remains true for Burkina Faso, where the mean number of children per woman went from 6.9 in 199. To 6.0 in 2010 and 5.4 in 2015 (INSD and ICF International, 2012 ; INSD, 2016).

A number of studies have sought to shed light on the slow and even stalling fertility declines observed to date in this African region. They have focused on the proximate determinants of fertility (union formation, contraception, etc.) (Wakam, 1992; Rwenge, 2007; Koné, 2007) or on the factors that might explain the persistent high demand for children (Vimard and Fassassi, 2007; Kaboré, 2019; Libali, 2019), tackling the question from different angles: socioeconomic, cultural, gender relations, etc. However, the modes of organization and production in which families are embedded, as well as the perceived costs and benefits of children and network transfers which follow from them, while documented in the 1970s and 1980s in a region which was largely rural then, have not been revisited in the current situation marked by rapid change and the advance of the urban transition. The main reason is the absence of data on these explanatory dimensions, not only in INDEPTH sites but also in the large demographic surveys used to monitor reproductive trends. This lack explains why it is pertinent to collect original data on these factors and to study their relationships to fertility, in view of a better understanding the on-going demographic changes in Burkina Faso. Surveillance sites, with their large local samples, provide the needed fine-grained gradient from rural to urban contexts.

Theory: This research adopts a Marxist economic perspective on the fertility transition. It is based on the general hypothesis that mechanisms through which fertility change operate derive from urbanization and, more generally, the modernization that follows the emergence of a capitalist mode of production. In a sociological perspective, we also investigate the confounding or independent role of new family ideals (notably as pertaining to the role and value of children) and the weakening of traditional networks of family solidarity.

Study site and samples: Thanks to the additional funds, the study will draw two samples (formal and informal areas) from the Ouagadougou surveillance site, and two samples (small town and villages) in the Nouna surveillance site, for a total of 6,000 respondents. The Système de surveillance démographique et de santé de Nouna (SSDS-N) is led by the Centre de recherche en santé de Nouna (CRSN), and the Observatoire de population de Ouagadougou (OPO) is headed by Institut supérieur des sciences de la population (ISSP) at the University of Ouagadougou.

The survey will include women and men aged 15 to 59 with at least one living child to quantify the costs and benefits of children.

Research outcomes: This research will produce three types of outcomes. First, on a scientific level, it will document the contribution of modes of production, solidarity networks, family ideals and costs and benefits of children to the on-going fertility transition in Burkina Faso. Second, it will offer, on an academic and pedagogic plane, a rich set of data to be exploited by a number of master theses and PhD students. Third, it will contribute to policy makers’ and the public’s understanding of the less researched aspects of the fertility transition in Burkina Faso. The scientific evidence produced will support policy makers in charge of population issues to reinforce politics and programs in the area of family planning and sexual and reproductive health.