News from the Dogon area of Mali

People in parts of the Dogon are finding a new way to produce a valuable commodity and increase their income, Beekeeping. The Joliba Trust is a charity working in Mali, particularly in the Dogon.

The district of Wadouba is situated in the heart of the Dogon Plateau, 35 kms from the regional town of Bandiagara on the Dogon Plateau. Kani-Gogouna is the principal village/town of the district which has 48 farming villages and 16 hamlets. The majority of the district is Dogon with 36,188 inhabitants. Wadouba is a rocky area. People live by growing cereal crops and hand-watered vegetables (mainly onions) during the dry season which is the main subsistence economy. There are frequent poor harvests due to poor and degraded soil, irregular rainfall, pests such as locusts, caterpillars and beetles, and because people have little equipment for farming. It is an area of chronic food insecurity and extreme poverty.

The zone of Wadoubou has been excellent for beekeeping in the past. Joliba Environment has been carrying out research with the local population in 11 villages in the district that are keen to work on tree planting and regeneration and on set aside ‘rewilding’ for regeneration of vital natural resources in the zone. This will be favourable to further increasing bee populations. At present wild bee colonies already exist almost everywhere as there is a good habitat for them. Bees are present in people’s courtyards, in cracks in old trees and in caves. Honey is an essential ingredient in Dogon traditional herbal medicine (which is the primary source of medical treatment for 80% of the population). Conditions are highly favourable in the Wadoubou district for successful beekeeping – it is a profitable activity for significant income generation and poverty reduction. The Dogon Plateau is one of the poorest parts of Mali which is in regular need of food aid. Burley-Téréli Friendship Trust has sent £5,000 for beekeeping projects in several villages. This will be used for training former beekeepers (men and women) in modern beekeeping techniques, equipping them with mounted top-bar hives, beekeeping suits, gloves and smokers and training women in each village in honey processing (bottling), beeswax extraction methods, the production of beeswax and shea butter ointment, and soap-making.

Burley-Téréli Friendship Trust would like to thank everyone for their support over Christmas. Cards, calendars and donations raised £2,522. At the end of November the Joliba Trust told us – ‘Many Dogon people who had migrated to better land on the pasture plains and set up new hamlets and villages have been displaced due to the conflict in Central Mali. It is about half the Dogon population who have now been forced to return to their original ancestral villages – mostly in the Sangha area near Tereli. This means that in many villages the water situation is at a crisis point where people are just drinking from ponds that will soon dry up.’ We received detailed information about 5 villages needing wells.

BTFT has decided to make water a priority for this year when we are celebrating 20 years of linking. £10,000 was sent in December for two wells – the money raised over Christmas will go towards a third well.

Our sincere thanks to everyone for the continued support that helps BTFT fund such vital projects.

Mary Wood, Janet Squire and the BTFT Trustees