Biography of Chantale Arseneau
Environment, social inclusion of women and sustainable food
Burkina Faso, a “country of honest men” located in West Africa, is the favorite place of Chantale Arseneau, Professor of Dietetic Techniques at Collège Maisonneuve. It is in Notatinga, a village located in the sub-Saharan zone of Burkina Faso, that Chantale and her team have concentrated their efforts to ensure the development of this community of 3,000 inhabitants.
With an interest in improving the accessibility of the food supply to African women and children, Chantale Arseneau joined forces with engineer Chantale Bernatchez and her husband Rasmané Ouedraogo (from the village of Notatinga), to create the Association Vergers d’Afrique in 2016. This non-profit organization, which has received several awards for excellence in innovation and social and environmental responsibility, aims to support farmers in the community of Notatinga by setting up orchards and community gardens to prevent desertification and food insecurity
Solidarity, openness, commitment, family, mutual help and freedom, these are the values that energize Chantale Arseneau and are at the heart of all her actions. Chantale’s role is to lay the groundwork for the future of Notatinga, and her most cherished dream is for this village to become self-sustaining. Each small action taken gradually leads to the realization of this dream.
The organization founded by Chantale Arseneau carries out many projects related to the environment, the social inclusion of women and sustainable food. In two years, the association has planted more than 600 fruit trees and 50 women have developed 50 commercial gardens. Recently, six cooperatives of the organization Engineers Without Borders Quebec supported by the Association Vergers d’Afrique, have demonstrated creativity and innovation by recovering used maple syrup tubes from Quebec for a solar energy drip irrigation system to maintain Notatinga’s orchards and community gardens.
In the near future, Chantale Arseneau and her team plan to set up solar dryers for the commercialization of fruits and vegetables, as well as install beehives and a henhouse to enrich the food supply of the village throughout the year.
Women as a vector of change
Chantale Arseneau strongly believes in the importance of women’s contribution in solving the problems experienced in African communities. Her own volunteer commitment over the last decade has brought about significant changes in the living conditions of women and children in Burkina Faso.
To name but a few, she has been involved in the development of shea pulp-based food products, including “Karidélice” jams. This initiative, which won the World Bank’s award for best female innovation, has opened the door to new markets and sources of income, enabling hundreds of families to improve their quality of life.
During one of her missions in Burkina Faso, Chantale Arseneau analyzed the food supply of a school canteen and quickly found a lack of protein in the menus. In 2018, to allow access to affordable protein, she set up and standardized soy-based recipes in order to ensure the healthy nutrition of schoolchildren in Burkina Faso and, in turn, improve their school performance.
Chantale Arseneau has also sponsored two students from Burkina Faso. She has personally contributed financially to the education of a student studying Food Processing and one studying Agriculture and Farming, making them ambassadors for sustainable development in the village of Notatinga.
Chantale Arseneau has also implemented a “green” project at Collège Maisonneuve by setting up an herb garden looked after by young people with intellectual disabilities. While promoting the social integration of these young people in their environment, this project also beautifies student spaces.
The drop of water that becomes an ocean
On a personal level, having overcome cancer and the loss of both parents and her marriage in recent years, Chantale Arseneau is an example of resilience and perseverance. Her unconditional love for her two daughters, her joy of singing in a choir and her passion for changing the world allow her to move forward one day at a time. This exceptional woman, endowed with tireless energy and an infectious enthusiasm, is a model of inspiration for those around her.
Her deep love of life is contagious. She changes the world by inspiring others to take risks, move forward with confidence, and engage with the community to make a real difference. In addition, she is an outstanding teacher, who demonstrates leadership and does not hesitate to take on challenges to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable, inspiring her students to get involved in this solidarity movement.
This is the message of the Mouvement Colibris, founded by Pierre Rabhi, which perfectly describes Chantale Arseneau’s commitment to all living beings. Like the humming bird that tries to extinguish the fire that sweeps through the forest by carrying a small drop of water in its beak, Chantale does her share with the means and energy she has, to build a better world.
It is by supporting people in distress as much as she can, by committing herself to encouraging peaceful coexistence and by converting her passion into action that she is able to change the world. It is in action that she finds happiness. And it is through action that development is possible. As Chantale Arseneau puts it so well: “This drop of water has the power to transform itself into a stream, a river and an ocean … you just have to believe!”.