Quiet and safe camping in the west of Mali

Garden Dialakoto part 1

Let me first give you some background on the situation.

Dialakoto is situated on the other site of the river Baffing from the big village of Manantali. This Manantali also used to be a small village but thanks to the construction of the Dam by German engineers, it has grown to be quite a sizeable village. Manantali enjoys electric, running drinking water and even some stretches of (potholed) asphalt road. There is enough power available, the dam generates enough to sell to Mauritania and Senegal, giving the government of Mali the hard needed foreign income.
You would think with so much electric nearby, all would enjoy connections, but sadly the electric and water is for one side of the river only. We, on this side can only sadly look at all the lights across the river at night. Drinking water is also not available, locals will either drink the not safe to drink river water or water from dug well’s. Also there is no decent road on this side of the river, and no plans to repair the damaged sand road that runs along the river bank on this side.

Most of the people living in Dialakoto come from other places in the area. During the construction of the dam and the subsequent filling of the big lake behind the dam, many villages had to relocate. The financial support that was promised sadly disappeared in some officials pockets.

A few people from the village work at the dam project, mostly in low paid manually labour jobs, due to the fact that they have no proper education. Night guard, road maintenance, that kind of jobs,
But mostly people are dependent on cultivation for their food. Since it does not rain in these parts for 8 months, its a bit of a problem. In the three or four months one has to cultivate for the whole year. When the rainy season is bad (to much or to little rain) people suffer.
During dry season one tries to collect some money buy gathering and selling wood, doing odd jobs or shoot any living animal for dinner. Many young man leave for the gold mines in the west of Mali, only to return poorer at the beginning of the next rainy season.

Je zou denken, met een rivier naast de deur is er genoeg water om te planten, ook als het niet regent. Maar men heeft geen geld om een waterpomp te kopen. Men leeft van dag tot dag, enige planning voor de toekomst, of gewoon voor morgen, is er niet bij. dat is men ook niet gewoon. Als men eens geld verdient wordt het veelal opgemaakt aan onzinnige dingen. Een telefoon of een brommer, om dan na een maand geen geld voor benzine of telefoon krediet te hebben. Maar de status van een brommer of een mooie telefoon is vaak belangrijker dan het denken aan morgen of overmorgen. Deze denkwijze (of eigenlijk niet-denk-wijze) zie je in veel Afrikaanse landen en is moeilijk te doorbreken.

You would think that having a river next door means enough water to cultivate. But carrying the water by hand every day is not an option (to much water needed) and money for a pump is not available. One does not plan, does not think about tomorrow or next week. If one finds money, it is immediately spend on stupid things like a motorbike or new telephone. Only to realise that after a month they have no money to buy fuel or credit for their mobil phone. The status of a shiny phone or fast motorbike is stronger then the will to save. Their situation without future has made people like brain-dead. Their is no future so why worry. Praying hard might work. This way of life is seen all through Africa and hard to change.

Result of this situation and state of mind is that they eat very one-sided and simple. Rice, sometimes with a sauce of peanuts or leaves of one sort of plant or another. Many people have symptoms of malnourishment, specially children. Rice belly’s, festering wounds, a kind of scurfy head skin, or Bilhartsiose (a disease from entering stagnant water to search for fish or wash their clothes)

To help the village closest to me (Dialakoto) I have decided to start a vegetable garden project. I have seen this construction before in mali and it seems to work very well. I, with your help, supply a fenced in piece of land with water taps, seeds to plant. This way they can grow things all year long. The main purpose is to cultivate for themselves. If production is good they could sell some surplus to the market, this way gaining some money. Their food supply will be less monotonous and more healthy, their is less need to spend the little money they have on vegetables in the market. At the same time I shall explain the principle of saving money for the future or for calamities, something I am already successfully doing with the people who work for me.

‘Just’ creating a garden is of course not done in Mali. There are problems to be solved, people have to give their permissions and that is not always easy. There is jealousy and a hunger for money. The preparations are not as quick as I want them to be. But things certainly progress and I am one step away from starting the construction.

The land has been made available by the chef-de-village, or village-chief. I however, want things on paper. he is an old man and may die some time. His children, his heirs, made not agree with the arrangement and claim back the land. Or perhaps he himself might change his mind and ask for rent or so. So i made a small contract which he refused to sign. After two weeks he still refused to sign so I went to visit him with the mayor of Manantali. After this he caved and, after some adaptions, promised to sign.

The second big hurdle was the manager of the water supply company. His name is Foufana, a bit older and about to retire. he loves money.
There is a huge irrigation project on this side of the river. A big pipe of about a meter diameter passes on the side of the road, passes my property, all the villages only to end up in a huge basin about 3 km from here. From there the water flows through an open half-pipe back into the river.
Mr Foufana had denied all access to these millions of litres of water that flow through this pipe every day. Apparently he wanted money for any water taken, and money is something people do not have. So in the past few years the irrigation project has only irrigated the river itself. What a waste of development.
When I came here about two years ago, I negotiated a water connection and I was the first to take water from this huge pipe. I gave water to my neighbour and to Boly (much to the chagrin of Foufana) but very slowly some agriculture projects have been started. Boly has planted more then 200 banana trees and further down the road a new garden has arisen.

On demanding water for my garden project he initially agreed. But a week later a delegation with the new minister of agriculture visited Manantali and was not very pleased with the non-development in this area. The result s that mr Foufana has now changed his mind and has told me to wait with the connection. I think he is afraid, since now he is in the picture of his minister, who has seen the results of years of corruption. A sort of stalemate has developed.

I will of-course not let it rest, I do not give up that easily. Last week I have requested the mayor to pay Foufana a visit, and I have let to plumbers, who are big friends of him, know that I want to go ahead, and how to get result. If in the coming weeks he is still holding up the project, I will go over his head to his boss in Bamako. Once I have clearance of him, I can start the work.

The land has been cleared, the people who have to dig the holes for fence and water pipe are ready, the women of Dialakoto are anxiously waiting the completion. I have bought fence in Bamako, as well as poles, water pipe and taps, all the connections. We are all ready.
I have even gotten some seeds from the Dutch seed company Bakker Brothers to distribute, so the women can start planting immediately.

So that’s how the development situation is at the moment. I am quite sure I will get the go-ahead soon, and we can start soon.
Financially I have received enough money to realise the project. I have estimated the costs to be about 1500 euro, I have received a little more, so I can build a small shed on the property to house materials and perhaps, when needed, a night watch

I have made up a contract for the women. Each of them will have to sign it. This contract informs them that they have to pay 100 Francs every month (20 cents), in order to pay the water bill and any maintenance needed. It also states that they are not allowed to plant any big things like papaya or mango trees. This will take away the sun from the neighbours plot. So I have assigned a separate area to plant these. I will also assign an area for organic garbage and one for other (which I will burn once in a while). The organic should give them the needed fertiliser after some months. There are some other rules to keep things clean and in order.

My plan is to inform you about once a month during the development of the garden, and a few times a year once it is running. If you have any comments, questions, ideas, please let me know. Maybe you have some experience you wish to share, they are always welcome.

For now, thanks again for your generous contribution, until soon

Greetings from beautiful Mali



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