communities are standing strong in Mali with help of project DJAM


Mali has been troubled for many years by political instability and conflict. In 2020,Covid-19 was added to this list of insecurities. These issues in Mali have made it difficult to move ahead with DJAM, but the partners have been resilient throughout and moved ahead with the project in 2020 and went full speed ahead in Q1 of 2021.

COVID pandemic
The global crisis related to COVID-19 pandemic started shortly after the beginning of project DJAM in Mali. The official kick-off of the project, held in Bamako at end-February 2020, was officially the last occasion for project partners to gather and meet in person.

The restrictive measures put in place at national and international level have forced project partners to shift online some activities and to postpone those which still required attendance in person, causing some delays in project implementation. Luckily the COVID situation in Mali has been generally under control, allowing local partners and experts to continue some of the activities as originally planned. At the end of 2020 there was a spike in infections in Bamako, requiring some exceptional measures for almost a couple of months, but without too many repercussions in the rural area of Pays-Dogon and the project.

Malian context: political crisis and insecurity
Besides the pandemic, the major obstacles of project implementation have been the insecurity in the region of Mopti and the general political instability that troubled all Mali in 2020.

The region of Mopti, where Pays-Dogon is located, has been afflicted by high insecurity, with terrorist attacks and episodes of banditry, since 2011. During 2020, and in particular in its second half, violent attacks have become less frequent and some initiatives of community dialogue between ethnic groups are taking place with encouraging results. Nevertheless, the area of Pays-Dogon remains inaccessible for European travelers and a difficult area also for Malian citizens, demanding a flexible approach in activities’ planning and management.

In addition, 2020 has been a troubled year for all of Mali. In the first half of the year serious protests and strikes by teachers have almost paralyzed the public education sector, making it very hard to pursue the collaboration with local authorities for strengthening the capacity of Lycée Professionel Sangha, one of the beneficiaries of the project. The political elections in spring generated even more protests among the population, making traveling to Bamako difficult and giving some higher uncertainty to local partners. Eventually, a coup d’état took place in fall, generating a trimester of political turmoil which caused even more delay in the implementation of some project activities. Luckily, the crisis was resolved peacefully, a transitional government was put in place and a regional and international crisis was avoided. The new year started under this new governance set-up, with some more political stability and some optimism among civil society. Nevertheless, with the COVID pandemic continuing at global scale and the insecurity persisting at Pays-Dogon, various activities of the project will continue online for the second year of project two.

Curriculum development and capacity building of Lycee Professionel Sangha
The first output of the project has surely been the most affected by the political crisis and general context of Mali during 2020. The numerous teachers’ strikes first, and the general political change after, have generated an impasse in the public education sector of Mali, with severe delays in the academic calendars of schools at all levels. This situation made it very hard to establish a collaboration with the Ministry of National Education, key actor for the development and approval of new education programs to be piloted at the Lycee Professionnel Sangha, beneficiary of the project. Nevertheless, the project consortium was able to initiate independent work of review and analysis of the existing TVET programs and of the labor market in agriculture and water management. This work culminated in the DACUM workshop, which took place in October (14-15) in hybrid form, with some participants in person in Bamako and some other connecting via videoconference from the Netherlands and other locations of Mali. The workshop was attended by Dutch and Malian experts of the education sector, professionals working in the agroindustry, business owners and representatives of labor associations. The result of the workshop was a proposal of a graduate’s profile, which identifies the key competencies and skills that a TVET graduate in agriculture should have to enter the labor market or to continue his studies. Eventually, the collaboration with the Ministry was officially established at the end of 2020 and its commission will work closely with the DJAM team over the first semester of 2021. The aim is to develop and officially approve the new curricula before the summer break, in order to start the new programs at the LPS for the next academic year. The situation is now stable, and all parties are optimistic about the positive outcome. Nevertheless, these various setbacks throughout 2020 have caused a serious delay in project implementation on this dossier; with the new programs being under development, also the appointment and training of the new teachers has been delayed and the first students enrolled in the new programs are not expected before fall 2021.

Capacity building of Association Dogon Initiative
The second output of the project has proceeded as expected during 2020 and many activities took place as expected. After a little delay in the first semester of the year, due to the outbreak of COVID and the local instability, the project consortium has well recovered after the summer. Good results were possible thanks in particular to consortium partner Delta-C, based in Bamako, whose experts were always able to travel to Pays-Dogon to hold the trainings workshop in person, despite the precarious security situation in the region.

Between August and December, six one-week trainings took place in Sangha or Sevare, involving all ADI staff (14). The workshops aimed at strengthening the organizational and project management capacity of ADI, which is still enlarging and trying to get solid foundations to carry out more programs with local communities in the near future. Training topics included, among others, administrative and financial management, reporting techniques, resource mobilization, conflict prevention and management. Three more workshops are expected for spring 2021, to complete this first training plan.

Furthermore, Delta-C and ADI have been working together to develop a program for training of trainers, to be implemented in 2021. The aim of the program is to equip the ADI staff with the knowledge and competencies to carry out trainings for the women groups at Pays-Dogon on specific techniques for cultivation, breeding and product commercialization. The program includes five topics, which will be explored with theory and practice, and will culminate in pilot trainings provided by ADI staff to the women groups under the supervision of the expert trainer.

The program will be integrated by additional online workshops, on topics related to agriculture and irrigation, held by Dutch partner Partenaire Pays Dogon, who have a deep knowledge of the Dogon context and cooperate since long time with ADI.

Capacity building and training of the women groups
The third output of the project concerns the capacity strengthening of the women groups at Pays-Dogon with whom ADI operates since some years. The dossier includes some activities of research and training, following the training for trainers received by ADI at output two. In 2020, some women representatives of the different groups were involved by Delta-C and ADI in the evaluation of training needs and the identification of training topics. The first trainings of the women have been postponed to 2021, because of the general delay of the training of trainers’ program of ADI. In the next spring, ADI will start with the first pilot trainings with women form the surrounding villages, to then implement a broader strategy of training for many women groups on the techniques for irrigation, cultivation, breeding, etc.

Apart from the activities strictly related to the DJAM project, ADI continues many other activities of training and support to the women from the Dogon villages, keeping on the long-standing commitment despite the difficult local context.

Video Research and DJAM platform
The fourth output of the project has been positively implemented and is on track with its plan. Dutch partner Viewpoint, expert in video research and documentary techniques, were able to identify at the start of the project an artistic collective from Bamako who could benefit of their training and at the same time operate as collaborators on the field where Viewpoint could not travel. The collective, called YamarouPhoto, has shown great engagement and potential and thanks to the training and supervision by Viewpoint, in person and from remote, they have strengthened their skills and knowledge of visual research as a tool for co-construction and diffusion of knowledge and awareness.

In September 2020, after many months of work from remote and training in videoconference, the Yamarou collective made a first mission to Sangha for field training and for shooting footage of ADI and the Dogon communities. Their work resulted in the production of interesting video documents which give voice to the Dogon people, hearing their points of view, their stories of resilience, their ideas and feelings about their conditions and the general context. These videos have been shared on an online platform for the project partners and their networks, which in 2021 will be opened to the wider public.

Despite the difficult circumstances, Viewpoint was finally able to travel again to Bamako in October 2020. During their visit they could give more training in person to the YamarouPhoto collective, work together on the footage shot at Pays-Dogon and plan their missions to the field over the next months.

In 2021 the work by Viewpoint and YamarouPhoto will continue on this twofold path. On one side, they will continue the training of Yamarou to strengthen their competencies and skills in documentary techniques, making them an experienced collective and possibly a training provider in visual research and documentary production. On the other side, they will cover with their cameras the training workshops of ADI and the Dogon women that will take place at Pays-Dogon, producing content-related videos to share the knowledge and competences produced thanks to the project DJAM.

About the project
This project is being implemented by Maastricht School of Management (MSM), Partners Pays-Dogon (PPD), CINOP, Viewpoint and Université DELTA – C to improve the access to vocational training for young people and women from the Dogon country. The consortium partners with project beneficiaries Association Dogon Initiative (ADI) and Lycée Professionnel Sangha (LPS) to empower them with the tools and knowledge they need to face the challenges posed by food and nutrition insecurity in the region of Mopti.

Orange Knowledge Programme
This project is part of the Orange Knowledge Programme (OKP) which is funded by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs and managed by Nuffic. For more information click here.

Photos taken by Viewpoint and Yamarou PHOTO

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