Posts Tagged With: Development Project

The Land Is Scarred and Lost For Us – What It Takes To Grow a Tree in The Sahel

To plant is not the problem but to protect and make them grow. One of the project's tree growing sites.

Sometimes an image is all that is needed to explain something. Words are powerful. Words and images together are unbeatable but there are moments when a picture is enough.

“La lutte anti-erosive”, the fight against erosion and its consequence the advance of desertification, and the stabilization of newly formed dunes to prevent them from further moving down south in the Sahel is an ongoing problem that gets a great amount of attention from development and nature conservation organizations all over the world.

It is in my eyes the biggest problem because ” The land is scarred and lost for us”, as an elder local resident said to me once.

I can never forget his words. A great part of the work I did in the Sahel (with an amazing team of people) was in the field of the protection of the natural environment in the cercle de Nara. Nara having  been classified since decades as a zone of ” food insecurity and extreme poverty” had enormous environmental problems.

And land was lost for us.

I should learn the truth of these words during seven years and see it daily with my own eyes. Once a certain stage of degradation had been reached, the land and its fertility could not be re-gained no matter what measures were applied. Developmental programmes and projects that cover the hole Sahel belt will contradict my statement and say that many measures work and that a combined effort is necessary. They don’t. Combined effort does not work.

It is not my objective to criticize the efforts of organizations and the flow of millions of dollars and euros to the Sahel region because I was involved in the same efforts passionately for many years. Simply to keep these measures going that are taught by developmental organizations ( and they are taught even if the process is named participatory)  and to apply them again and again is exhausting and tiring for the ones who have been designated as ” the responsables” ( village people again)  in the project planning.

To plant a tree is not the problem. To grow it is the challenge. The challenge for the residents is to protect it with a fence, either of wood or wire, if you have, so that the goats can not eat it, then to fetch water from the traditional wells or from the water holes in the marigots ( dried out lakes), to walk to the site by foot in the hot Sahel sun and to water the trees twice at least. Better would be three times a day, as the project said. The challenge is to do this for fifteen or twenty years. The challenge is to protect the young plants against natural predators, such as crickets and bugs. To do this the project has shown the target group ( the village people) how to prepare a ” completely organic and ecologically safe ” brew from plants like the Neem tree. This must be applied preventative once a day.

But yes, of course there is training and” encadrement”- monitoring or follow-up. A local project agent will travel with a motor bike to all the sites and will be in frequent contact with all the locals, ready to answer questions and to offer the project’s support if needed. He will do that at least for five years.

I am holding my breath now here.. but one good thing has happened. We created a job. The local agent is going to feed his family for five years because he has a job and a salary.

But what can be done ? Really?

” It has to be left alone, it is scarred, the land is scarred and it is lost for us, but not forever. It has to be left alone and a new order will be established. It will not be like it was before and it will take a very long time. Other will live on it not us “, was what the old man said to me. ” It has happened like this before”

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Categories: Development Aid, Development Project, Landscapes, Mali, Mali Villages, Nara, Nature, Participatory Development, Sahel, Sahelian Goats, West Africa | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Three Thirsty Camels

Three very thirsty camels approaching one of the wells in the region built with Development Aid Funds

In the 1970s, the Sahel came into the lime light and captured international attention when drought and famine killed nearly 200,000 inhabitants of the region.

Though conditions have since improved during the last 4 decades, the Sahel is still fighting a vicious cycle of soil erosion, insufficient irrigation, deforestation, overpopulation, desertification and drought.

International development agencies believe that ambitious tree-planting, dune stabilisation and irrigation projects will help the Sahel, restoring it’s fragile natural environment over time. From Ehtiopia to Niger to Mali projects have been busy with well drilling, irrigation schemes, water and sanitation schemes accompagnied by training measures to raise environmental consciousness with the local population.

Creating access to clean drinking water was and is still one of the priorities of most projects in the region today. Same applied to our project at the time.

But Nara’s ground water to be found in a depth of 200 meters and more was of fossil origin. Among the many ethnical groups of the region are nomads and berbers. Livestock is their life.

The question which arose soon was:  Water for the camels and cattle or for the humans ?

The fossil ground water, hidden in chambers and flowing in the earth so deep that it could not be reached by the local population with traditional drilling methods, could only be touched and brought to the surface after hundreds and hundreds of years with modern Western technology and foreign aid.

Was that a good thing or a bad thing the faithful development assistant on duty asked himself ? Would all the hopes and all the Development built on this fossil water not collapse when the water was finisihed. No, said the KVW ( Kreditanstalt fuer Wiederaufbau), we have done a calculation that this water will last a thousand years.  And in a thousand years there will be a new plan !

But they did not count the camels !

Categories: Africa, Animals, Landscapes, Nara, Nature, People | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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