Nov 24, 2008
November 5 th 2008, Bamako, Mali, 7 in the morning. A special day had started. The first day of the long awaited Cr...
November 5th 2008, Bamako, Mali, 7 in the morning. A special day had started.
The first day of the long awaited Cross-Country Learning Event (CCLE) on Livelihood Opportunities, the event that IICD organises for project partners by theme once every few years and that in this occasion has fallen under my ‘livelihoods’ range of responsibilities. The bus to Sikasso was waiting in front of the hotel, already loaded with four translators and their technician with his equipment, two ladies introduced to me as ‘hostesses,’ Mady, the cheerful local co-organiser representative, bananas, peanuts and bottles of water and flavoured sodas, a shy boy that never revealed his role but that would smile to our greetings in poor French, and of course, the driver. The bus is to take us to Sikasso, capital city of the southern region with the same name, where many of IICD’s supported livelihoods projects in the country are located. It is my first time in Mali, as well as for 21 other participants coming from 7 different countries. They are expectant. I am expectant. We have invited them to a tri-lingual workshop in rural Mali to exchange experiences about rural content for rural lives, how farmers in the most disadvantaged areas are working with information and communication technologies (ICTs) to create and disseminate local content in ways that are meaningful for them. And in this context we are all first timers.
Fortunately, most of the participants had arrived on time to Bamako the night before, and the two Zambians that missed their flight (for those mysterious excuses given by airlines) would be arriving later in the day. With the help and mobile phone of my colleague Bénédicte Marcilly, the connoisseur of the local logistics and my partner for the event, we were getting a transport for the two we were leaving behind to catch up with us in Sikasso. We were promised they would be picked up upon arrival. Yes of course we would pay all the extra expenses. So we departed, Sikasso there we go.
But the day had not started here. From early hours many participants, myself, and about half of the world had been watching the results of the 2008 United States Presidential Elections. “Yes we can” had replaced the greeting “Good morning” that day. The Mirabeau Hotel TVs seemed to be all connected, tuned in the same channel that showed a large picture of Barak Obama in the background, with French journalists discussing the implications of this election for us all. We had had breakfast smiling, watching the screen. Excitement was in the air, and for me, a white Latin-American woman, receiving this news surrounded by African colleagues made those mixed feelings for history, race, humanity and development come together in a very moving awakening. This was a historical moment, and we were living in it.
The 5 hour road trip on the air conditioned bus went so smoothly that left us pleasantly surprised. No incidents, neither caws nor goats blockades, they would just run away from the loud bus horn. In Sikasso, the Hotel Kaaki Palace’s receptionist was ready for us, with all the room keys spread on the counter: Pick your room! Great. Someone handed me key 306, a room which I later discovered had no working TV, no mosquito net, and was too far from internet reach (afterwards we learned only 4 rooms in the ground floor could get signal). That was ok, I somehow had the feeling that would not have time either to watch tv or worry about mosquitoes. And for the internet, that was to be solved by quietly camping outside those four ‘connected’ rooms around midnight.
Despite all the bananas and peanuts provided during the trip by the hostesses, we were hungry. So all on to the bus again through the Sikasso market to arrive to the facilities of IER (National Institute for Agricultural Research), where the 3-day workshop was to be held. The group of ‘transformatices’, women that work in the transformation of products like mangos, coconuts and potatoes, received us with music and dancing, playing drums with such a skill that even surprised local Malian men participants. This would only be a first introduction to what we would later experience of Sikasso’s music richness. We were then kindly served salad, chicken, couscous, fruit. Welcoming remarks by our hosts filled the atmosphere, which together with those women that were cooking, dancing and chanting for us, made us quickly leave behind all the trip exhaustion, doubts and challenges since deciding to plan this event in Sikasso months ago.
And the activities began, only two hours later than planned, that afternoon. Introductory remarks, ice breakers, story telling. Everybody participated actively, and people had this extra energy that we organisers recognised as reflection of the excitement and power of coming together.
We finished that day with a visit to the IICD supported Sene Kulafoni Bulon project. We toured the facilities, the computers, looked at the produce display window and got introduced to this concrete example of close collaboration between three large farmers' organizations in Sikasso (the Union of Mango producers, the Federation of Potato producers and the Federation of Women Mango Transformers) and the regional branch of Mali’s IER that focuses on the transformation chain of products.
What particularly struck me was the lecture of a poem in Bambara, written by a member of the project, and using the IICD acronym as inspiration. See the bigger and readable version of the poem.
We soon had become part of the Sene Kulafoni Bulon’s fans club, wearing their t-shirt and taking pictures with each of their team members. And as if it could not get any better, the left behind Zambian participants arrived right on time to get to sit at the dinner table.
“As you can see here, computers are not longer a taboo for farmers” were the words of Dede Togola Konde, a very charismatic and energetic women and one of the project directors, when thanking us for the visit. As everybody clapped and smiled, and started digging into their chicken plates, I wondered how many things were not longer taboos, starting today, for all of us sitting at that table and for the world. That was a very special day, from dawn to dusk. I am sure will certainly stay with many of us for years to come.
Nov 11, 2008
On October 26, 2008, a wireless mesh network was launched in Sengerema, Tanzania, connecting 10 local organisations to the in...
On October 26, 2008, a wireless mesh network was launched in Sengerema, Tanzania, connecting 10 local organisations to the internet through the Sengerema Telecentre.
The network was built during a workshop organised by the IICD supported Tanzania Telecentre Network (TTN), supported by the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD).
In follow up of the site survey in July, a mesh network was implemented in Sengerema, connecting 10 organisations. The purpose is to share the connectivity costs of the Sengerema Telecentre and to pilot this technology for the Tanzania Telecentre Network.
The implementation was combined with a wireless technology workshop for wireless techies in the Lake Zone of Tanzania, hoping they will apply these technologies in their own projects as well as forming the ICT support structure which will secure technical sustainability of the Sengerema infrastructure.
After all the hard work, the workshop and implementation of the network was officially closed and the new wireless network was launched by the guest of honour.
The launch was a festive happening and one of the outputs that we never thought of listing amongst the expected outputs was the Telecentre Song! The telecentre song performed at the launch by a Sengerema teacher.
Also see the other videos on the workshop and implementation.