Newsletter n°3 19/01/2007
Editorial
:: By: Allison Bryan

Each morning the Mali-Folkecenter office comes to life with the swishing fans, the clicking keyboards and animated discussions. There is a constant flow of people coming or going from meetings, field visits, and conferences. Reports are getting written, networks strengthened, and strategies established. The atmosphere is busy, hot, and friendly.

The work that is being done is moving MFC and its partners forward. In the villages programs are being implemented, that are helping improve the livelihoods of residents. In the cities, policies are being developed and concepts shared. At the heart of these activities is a driving principle – appropriate solutions for an eco-development.

 This concept is embedded into all MFC’s projects and activities. It enables community growth and sustainable development. This approach recognizes the capacities and responsibilities of every community for their own welfare. Local realities are tied together in a complex web of interdependence and in this way local solutions breed national and even global impacts.

We would like to impress upon you the value of this concept and invite you look at the world threw this lens as you read this newsletter and go about your work. Appreciating our shared humanity begins by finding appropriate solutions in each one of our communities.
The Mali-Folkecenter Team
Summary

What's Happening at MFC ?

MFC Programs and Activities
:: By : Mamadou Bagayoko

Mali-Folkecenter participated in the international conference on ‘Youth and Desertification’ held in Bamako in September 2006. The main focus of the conference was how to effectively engage youth in the fight against desertification. The conference had three central themes: Economic Opportunity, Education & Awareness Raising, and Social Implications of Desertification on Young People. Strong links where drawn between the lack of economic opportunities for youth and the proliferation of desertification.

 Without viable alternatives, youth engage in activities detrimental to the environment in an attempt to generate income to survive. Woodcutting is one of these activities that both threatens the environment and feeds desertification. Unemployment and environmental deterioration even bring some youth to resort to illegal immigrations.

 Mali-Folkecenter contributed to the meeting by presenting its activities related to fighting desertification, poverty and environmental degradation. Namely, it presented on the benefits of the jatropha plant and income generating activities in rural women’s groups.

The jatropha plant helps fight desertification as it can revitalize land and protects crops against erosion. MFC’s four jatropha-based projects demonstrate what a promising tool jatropha can be to fight desertification. Furthermore Jatropha-based bio-fuel programs can also create jobs for youth and provide alternatives to wood burning or the use of fossil fuels.

 The Sinsibere Program works with groups of women in rural communities to promote environmental preservation and poverty alleviation. The program targets woodcutting and finding alternatives to this environmentally unsound practice. By researching and helping implement alternative income generating activities in participating villages, MFC has been able to have a direct positive impact on the environmental.

 MFC was able to give conference participants some concrete examples of things happening on the ground to help fight desertification. Through its presentation it demonstrated that desertification touches the lives not only of people in the north but also of people in the south in a significant way. This exchange of ideas and recognition of shared problems will help promote cooperation and a solution based approach to desertification.

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:: By: Diakalia Traore

Mali-Folkecenter in collaboration with IRES (Initiative for Regenerative Energy in Saxony) received the first place prize in the contest Mondialogo 2004/2005 initiated and organized by Daimler Chrysler and UNESCO in partnership with Mercedes. ‘Mondialogo Engineering Award’ engages students, universities, NGOs from developing countries in partnership with ones from developed countries. These actors compete to apply their knowledge and know-how in order to sustainability improve living conditions in developing countries.

 As the competition progressed it drew the attention of other stakeholders in Germany. Solar World, a solar panel producing company from Freiberg, donated six 210 Watt solar panels and covered the transportation costs of materials to Mali. Together eight German volunteers and Mali-Folkecenter’s team installed two solar lighting power systems in health care centres, two lighting and refrigeration solar systems, and 2 battery charge stations in three Malian villages. The project sites are the villages of Wola and Kola in the district of Bougouni, and Bougoula in the district of Kati.

 The project will have several positive impacts on the communities involved. Electricity will allow for better working conditions and healthcare centres to remain open in the evenings, thereby increasing the number of people who will be able to  visit. Refrigeration will keep vaccines usable longer and increase immunization rates. These factors will help improve public health and have positive effects on critical issues such as infant (up to one year) and pregnancy related mortality rates. In a similarly positive way, battery charge stations will provide income to families and help meet basic energy needs, such as access to information (TV, radio, etc…). People will be trained to maintain these systems, creating jobs and ensuring the longevity of the project. This will all be done in an environmentally conscious way that promotes photovoltaic technology.

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Siemenpuu Partnership
:: By: Johanna Togola

At the beginning of October 2006, MFC signed a partnership agreement with the Siemenpuu Foundation, Finland. This foundation has also established similar partnerships with NGOs in India and Indonesia. This partnership gives a new dimension to the collaboration between MFC and Siemenpuu, and provides a concrete basis for cooperation.

 The MFC and Siemenpuu Foundation started cooperation in 2003, when Siemenpuu funded its first project in Mali. This project was for promotion of the Jatropha plant as a tool to combat desertification and to stimulate the local economy. The Siemenpuu Foundation has also financed 2 other projects, one on information exchange and the other on promotion of local traditional knowledge for environmental protection. The current partnership with Siemenpuu will focus on capacity building of civil society actors in environmental protection, particularly in the Sikasso region. Activities include working in networks to exchange ideas and experiences, training on existing legislation, and support for local initiatives.

 Sikasso region was chosen because it has the richest natural resources in Mali. There are still dense forest areas in this region, and it is the main producer of cotton and gold (the two major economic activities in Mali). The cotton and gold production pose serious environmental problems which threaten the future of this region and the country as a whole.

Another element of the new partnership between MFC and Siemenpuu is the organisation each year of a National Environment Forum. The first forum was organised at the end of November 2006. The organisation of this forum is intended to create a popular framework for exchange of ideas and experience et for dialogue between civil society, the administration, the private sector and other actors implicated in environmental questions. You can find more information on the discussions of the first forum with our next newsletter.

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On October 16th 2006 a ceremony was held in the rural commune of Garalo, in the Sikasso region in the south of Mali to celebrate the implementation of a bio-fuel project based on jatropha. A delegation of people engaged in the project attended to offer their support including His Excellency Hamed Diane SEMEGA, Minister of Mines, Energy, and Water. Mr. SEMEGA laid the first brick of the facilities that will help bring bio-fuel generated electricity (245 KW) to approximately 8000 residents of the Garalo commune and possibly later to the rest of the people in the surrounding villages. This project, facilitated by Mali-Folkecenter, was made possible by funding from The Malian Agency for the Development of Household Energy and Rural Electrification (AMADER) and the SHGW Foundation from the Netherlands.

 The dynamic atmosphere was set by live music, performances, traditional dances, and empowering speeches. Village young and old attended the ceremony along with the mayor and five chiefs of the village districts, giving appreciation and celebrating the hope inspired by this project. For the 70% of Malians who live in rural communities this project shows that living rurally does not have to mean a cash-crop reliant economy, no running water, or that the only alternative to not having electricity is petroleum generators.

Mali depends largely on the import of fossil fuels to meet a large part of its modern energy needs, which has perverse effects on the economy and lives of Malians. Bio-fuel, especially jatropha-based, is a viable alternative that has the potential, if properly managed, to improve quality of life on a national scale. Standing in a jatropha field, His Excellency, Minister SEMEGA encapsulated the feeling of hope inspired by this project by stating: “Energy independence for Mali starts right here, in this field.” 

The Malian environment is fragile and arid, yet jatropha is resilient and can grow under these harsh conditions. Jatropha can reclaim Mali’s difficult land and restore eroded areas, effectively generating environmentally friendly energy, helping reduce CO2 emissions, and helping revitalize local ecosystems.

This project will stimulate the economy and create disposable income. Extra income being earned can in turn be used to develop healthcare, education, small-business needs, living conditions, and much more. The project will be closely monitored and documented, so others interested in similar initiatives can learn from this experience. Jatropha is expected to transform Garalo, offering residents greater opportunities and a chance to sustainably build a still more vibrant community.

 

NGO MFC Energy Environment / ONG MFC Energie Environnement
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