I'd always wanted to find out so I went to the Wouol Cooperative in south-western Burkina Faso. It started the year I was born: 1980 and in 28 years they've done a huge amount. Not only do they make the best dried mangoes I've ever tasted, as well as delicious cashew nuts, they've also got a nursery with pineapples, jiatropha for biofuel and other plants to help farmers diversify - by growing different things they're less vulnerable if a particular crop does badly because of the weather or pests.
Next year they're hoping to pilot an insurance project (the weather's unpredictable: droughts and floods are really common so they've developed a grain bank to help in hard times - they want to expand this into a more comprehensive insurance scheme). They've even bought a minibus which they hire out and use themselves to do concerts and dances!
A volunteer set up their website and took great photos: www.wouol.org/presentation_eng.htm
Working for Oxfam and Peace Child International I've visited a few development projects and this is a really good one. They take volunteers too.
Before coming to Wouol I hadn't realised that each cashew nut has to be cut up and cleaned by hand. Watching how much work it takes I've vowed to no longer wolf down cashew nuts in big handfulls without chewing properly. They take so much work to cut up the least I can do is enjoy them rather than seeing how many I can get in my mouth at one time.
Marie-Louise Sourabiu has worked at the Cooperative for over a year. She has a small farm and 3 children and the money she earns helps pay for school, medicines and household expenses. "We have a small farm but cannot grow enough to feed the family all year round. The money I earn makes a big difference: there's only farm work for 4 months of the year, but the cooperative is open all year round".
Dried mangoes are big business for the women of Wouol, but I was there at the wrong time of year so all the mango drying presses were empty and sad looking: that's why they're starting to grow pineapples. They can make dried pineapples during the periods where there are no mangoes!
Schools in England are already learning about the work of Wouol.
These partnerships matter and make a difference.