By Diego Beamonte, traducciÃ³n al espaÃ±ol Diego Beamonte, traduction franÃ§aise Cindy Bellemin-Magninot
ICVâs E-TIC program focuses on activities in both Mali and Senegal, providing tools and training components to small farmers, herders and fishermen. Among the recent results there is a decentralized field study, as well as an AgriGuide which is under development.
Mali has lately become the focus of media attention due to an expected coup shortly before democratic elections initially scheduled for April 2012. Until recently, Mali was seen as one of the stronger African democracies. ICVolunteers has been working in Mali since 2002, with one of its local branches there.
ICVâs E-TIC program is providing tools and training components so that small farmers, herders and fishermen in Senegal and Mali can better sell their products. Using any information and communication technology (ICT) available, the goal is to directly and indirectly assist farmers in their negotiations and trades, alter their methods to fit an environmentally conscious approach and involve youth and women in the process.
Through a decentralized technology-based field study, E-TIC collected information from farmers, herders and fishermen regarding their needs, issues and opportunities. The results of the inquiry show that by far community radio and mobile phones are two means that are most effective to get messages to local populations. Given that an important percentage of the population is illiterate, pictograms and other visuals provide the right alternative to communication. Another important revelation of the study is that most farmers well understand that pesticides and overuse of fertilizers will ultimately impoverish soils, kill fish in the rivers and negatively impact health of consumers.
Among the concrete tools under development for the program is the AgriGuide, an informative document providing technical guidance about organic farming practices for the crops planted in the region.
E-TIC continues despite the coup
Just days before the coup, Mr. Shindouk, leader of the Oulad Najim tribe and one of the field connectors of the E-TIC program, detailed the progress of local activities and results in north of Mali. âThe E-TIC program and the AgriGuide bring not only much to the population but also to the environment,â he explained. As a nomad, his knowledge of the area granted the team precious insight and access to towns, locations and information while carrying out research for the program.
A local awareness campaign developed for the past two years was aimed at local families in order to spread information, share experiences and demonstrate the best methods of agriculture, herding and fishing. Information sessions were carried out. The plan was also to show videos and work with various illustrators to explain in simple and visual ways things that are otherwise being overcomplicated, and leaflets translated to the local languages will be distributed.
Work in Mali from exile in Canada
While activities have been put on standby due to the unstable circumstances in Mali, the work continues, with the development of the AgriGuide, which as says Shindouk, "brings not only much to the population but also to the environment.â Consequently, he persistently continues to fuel the project with the help of his wife Miranda, who is a skilled illustrator. Both of them are currently in Canada.
Miranda and other artists from Africa and Europe will continue to work on the awareness campaign by illustrating a series of booklets and posters depicting positive agricultural methods. From manufacturing environmentally friendly fertilizers to demonstrating how pesticides affect water sources, the artists, whose techniques range from pencil sketching to graphic design, will eventually see their art used in poster and booklet formats, among others, throughout Senegal and Mali.
Shindouk shared his plans to establish three working groups, which he hopes to coordinate upon his return to Mali, once the situation has been settled. âIt begins with awareness and consciousness that the abundance of fertilizers and pesticides is not good for the environment. It is a shared vision that goes through awareness, but also through sharing of good practice and useful information.â Through the use of the AgriGuide, Miranda, will carry out workshops for children and families, while Shindouk will spread knowledge and assist the needs of others in his community.