MFC Banniere
Newsletter No. 5, January 2008
:: By: Benoît Rivard

Looking back to previous editorials for some inspiration, I couldn't help but notice a common theme. MFC Nyetaa is leaping forward, making strides, enlarging its horizon. Call it what you will, it is all encompassed in one Bamanan word: Nyetaa. The meaning of this word is omnipresent in all of MFC Nyetaa's activities. Whether it's Garalo's villagers now receiving 5 hours of electricity per night (instead of 3 hours), or the women of Sinsibere forming a cooperative to sell their local products, the focus is on progress.

The end of 2007 naturally makes one reflect on the past year's trials and tribulations. The articles of this newsletter allow space for such reflections.

The Garalo Bagani Yelen project has gone from dream to reality in the span of less than a year and the villagers of Garalo will soon be selling their jatropha crops to the cooperative as a revenue-generating activity.

An evaluation guide on the impacts of energy interventions in development, through the Development and Energy in Africa project, has been distributed in Tanzania to five African centres of energy.

In the Sinsibere project, women of one village were able to cease commercial wood cutting completely and many individual women in other villages as well, thanks to MFC Nyetaa training and collaborating efforts.

The first National Environmental Forum in Mali was organized last year and, with the participation of over 700 representatives from five regions, can be deemed a success. The second Forum, also organized by MFC Nyetaa, will take place from 29 to 31 January 2008.

MFC Nyetaa is also redefining its path to focus on three unified elements to their vision: local economic development, good governance and capacity building. The local economic development is essential for empowering the rural populations with less volatile income-generating activities, which will need to be well managed through good governance and a system of checks and balances. It is through this path that capacity - for example, in the ability to self-manage a cooperative - will grow in a sustainable manner.

On behalf of everyone at MFC Nyetaa, I send my best wishes for the New Year. May this year be defined by one word: Nyetaa.

The MFC Nyetaa team

What's Happening at MFC?
MFC Programs and Activities
Jatropha fuelled rural electrification in Mali - the dream becomes reality in the Garalo Bagani Yelen project
:: By : Benoît Rivard and Tom Burrell

MFC Nyetaa (Mali-Folkecenter) and the villagers of Garalo are going down in the history books. For the first time, the electricity in Garalo was generated from both palm and jatropha oil in what has become the largest straight vegetable oil rural electrification project in Africa. The 100 kW generator - one of three at the power house with a total capacity of 300 KW - that feeds electricity into over 178 homes, gives light, refrigeration and security to over 4,700 people.

"The dream has become real"

Around 70 % of Mali's population lives in rural areas, where less than 4% of people have access to electricity, but Garalo has quickly become a sustainable energy oasis and source of hope for the future. The dream began with Mamadou Kané, a local of Garalo who told the villagers he would bring them electricity. "They thought I was crazy," says Mamadou. "In fact, some people remained sceptical even when the generator sets and electricity grid were being installed! But now you see those sceptics getting connected to the grid one by one." The reality of every light bulb over children studying, every refrigerator in the local pharmacies, and every television blaring the nightly news has converted even the most sceptical villagers.

A closed cycle

A jatropha cooperative composed of 30 villages of farmers interested in growing the plant was formed in the commune of Garalo. These local farmers planted close to 450 hectares for the rain season of 2007. Most have sowed their seeds alongside crops of beans, sesame, peanuts and cotton.

For the cooperative members, the plant produces three fruits of revenue. First, they are selling the seeds to their cooperative. Second, they will receive part of the benefits when the pressed oil is sold to ACCESS and other customers. Third, the press cake, a residue from the pressing, is sold as fertilizer. The local production, local use and local benefits allow the electricity consumers and members of the cooperatives to find additional income and perhaps embark in new revenue generating activities.

A litre of hope

The recent test-run first used 20 litres of palm oil for 3 hours and later made the switch to jatropha oil (10 litres) for the generator to produce electricity to Garalo for about 1 hour. The 100 kW generator set, installed by a Dutch company, provided power to the residents for over 5 hours that day - and 2 hours the next day - solely on bio-fuel.

High Voltage Benefits

Garalo no longer lives in the dark. "It used to be dangerous to sit outside at night, especially for the children, but the light protects us now,", says Djénébou Doumbia, a local resident of Garalo. Villagers unanimously agree with her that they are much safer from venomous night creatures like snakes, scorpions - and thieves. In the past, people had to use dirty and inefficient kerosene lamps for lighting in the evenings. Tailors and carpenters are now able to work extended hours because of the brighter lights. Restaurant and boutique owners are also able to extend their business hours.

An Illuminated Horizon

"A man walking forward is always anticipating," explains Ibrahim Togola. "He is focusing not on the present but rather on the challenges he will face in the future". Garalo, with the potential of connecting 650 households and 10,000 people, is indeed the first step of bigger things to come for rural Mali since there are already two similar MFC Nyetaa projects growing in Zantiébougou and Manakoro.

Garalo Bagani Yelen, the title of the project in Bambara, translates into "Garalo Jatropha Light". In the future, those three words will be seen to mark the first steps towards a proliferation of local sustainable energy oases, to meet the needs of the Malian people.

Mamadou Kané, a resident of Garalo, examines a young jatropha plant with Mr Konaté, an employee of MFC Nyetaa (above).

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Development and Energy in Africa
:: By: Pierre Demebele

As part of its research on energy systems in Mali, Mali-Folkecenter, in collaboration with Risoe Center in Denemark, the Energy Center of The Netherlands and five centres in Africa (Botswana : EECG, Ghana : KITE, Senegal : ENDA-Energie, Tanzania : TaTEDO, Zambia : CEEEZ) have developed a framework for evaluating the impacts of energy interventions. This evaluation guide was developed as part of the "Development and Energy in Africa" (DEA) project which was co-financed by the European Commission under its COOPENER programme and the Governments of Denmark and The Netherlands. The project started in May 2005 and was implemented over 30 months.

Through the development of the evaluation guide, MFC Nyetaa has implemented several activities. These include:

- The elaboration of a directory of energy interventions in Mali. This directory consists of ten (10) projects implemented between 1999 and 2005. These projects consist, in general, of the protection of the environment through the dissemination of energy saving equipment or alternative fuels to wood and charcoal, as well as the use of solar systems for water pumping, medicine refrigeration, cooking and rural electrification to satisfy basics needs. The aim of this activity was to identify the links between access to energy and poverty reduction.

- The development of the evaluation guide also included a consultative workshop with the key stakeholders of the energy sector. This workshop was held October 12th, 2005; individual consultation was also carried out. These consultations aimed to identify the needs that were taken into account in the guide for monitoring and evaluating.

- A preliminary methodological guide was developed and tested through a case study. This case study concerned the "Women and Renewable Energies Project" (WREP) that was implemented in Mali for the promotion of solar systems. The preliminary guide, through the causal chain, enables the identification of the links between energy and development and the indicators evaluating the impacts. The case study enables to ascertain the impacts of the WREP project with the beneficiaries. The results of the case study were presented to the stakeholders during a workshop held on the 31st October 2006.

- The guide was further refined during the DEA partners meeting in Bamako from the 13 to 16 February 2007. Strategies for the dissemination of the guide were also developed. The dissemination of the guide was done during the regional workshop organized in Arusha, Tanzania from the 16 to 18 of October 2007. This workshop was attended by three persons from Mali. A national workshop was also held on the 1st of November to present the final guide to the stakeholders. The dissemination was the final activities of the DEA project but the key challenges remain the adoption by the stakeholders for the evaluation of the impacts of energy interventions on the development and poverty alleviation.

The group of partners of DEA meet at the head office of MFC Nyetaa in Bamako (right).

For more information please visit the DEA's website (

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Another step forward with Sinsibere: forming a women's cooperative
:: By: Johanna Togola

Since 2001, MFC has been executing, in cooperation with Finnish NGO Dodo, a project called "Sinsibere" that assists rural women to create new income generating activities in place of wood cutting. The results have been very positive and in January 2007, the project received new funding for three years from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland. In the new phase the goal is to assist the women in creating a cooperative. The main activities of the cooperative will be the production of gardening products.

The foundation to the cooperative has been laid in the earlier phases of the Sinsibere project during 2001-2006. In those years, the project assured remarkable results especially in the fields of organization of women and capacity building in terms of literacy and income generating activities. Women of one village were able to cease commercial wood cutting completely and many individual women in other villages as well.

The income generating activities like soap making, gardening and small commerce were supported by the micro credit and saving schemes. The 600 women who have actively participated in the project were able to save over 7,000 euros in their own account by paying the monthly membership fees and 10% interest for the micro loans. This has given an important economical autonomy for the women, which has in turn given them self-confidence and feeling that they can change things. These are very crucial components in the fight against poverty.


The cooperative will have its center in Bougoula, one of the communal centers of the project. The construction of the center started already in spring 2007 and will continue in this dry season. On November 12th, the establishment meeting with the selection of chairwoman and 7 other members of the board was organized and the cooperative gained official status in December.

In the coming years, the goal of the project is that the women will be able to run the cooperative independently. Soon, they will be selling the vegetables on the national market and their variety of other natural products on the national and international markets.

The women of the cooperative balance their books (left).

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Sigida Nyetaa: Capacity building for environmental protection at grassroots level
:: By: Johanna Togola

Sigida Nyetaa, in local Bamanan, means environmental sustainability, change and movement in a positive direction.

Since 2006, MFC Nyetaa has worked to accomplish just that through a cooperation program with the Siemenpuu foundation in Finland to reinforce the capacities of grassroots management of natural resources and participation in the decision making processes on a local, regional and national level. The program has three dimensions: capacity building for village people in environmental protection in the Sikasso region, support for micro projects arising from this capacity building, and the annual National Environmental Forum where people from all spheres of the society are participating and debating different environmental challenges.

The capacity building program, first formed in the Sikasso region, now boasts about 20 environmental committees altogether called "Sigida Nyetaa". These committees are further joined on the communal level and in the future, the communal committees will be joined in a network on the district level.

During the capacity building, different important environmental questions in the area have been discussed and as a result, the participants have suggested several ideas for the micro projects. During 2007, a committee composed of representatives of various institutions in the Sikasso regions selected 9 micro projects for financing. Among the projects, we find: (i) the organization of waste management in the small town of Niena by the women association of Niena; (ii) reproduction of "Rotin" in the areas where it had become almost extinct due to intensive harvesting; (iii) and the establishment of nurseries for native trees. In 2008, the funding of micro-projects will continue and be expanded to new areas.

The first National Environmental Forum was organized on 30 November and 1 December 2006. It was a big success with more than 700 participants debating over several themes like desertification, decentralization and management of natural resources. Participants of the forum came from 5 regions of Mali, from different African countries as well as from Europe. The forum was the first of its kind because it created space for a real dialogue between village people, administrators and politicians, NGOs, donors and other advocates. For the most part, the themes were discussed in the national language of Bambara, which allowed for a genuine debate between village people and the administrators in Bamako. Because the participants hoped that this year's forum would last for three days or even a week, the next forum in January 2008 has indeed been extended for three days. The themes to be debated this year in the forum are climate change and land management issues.

Keep an eye out for our next newsletter in late February where we will share stories (and pictures) from the National Environmental Forum!

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