as i am.

"…but soil is a refuge for dispersed seeds."


The Training

Posted on by chrissy

One of our tasks during homestay was to give a moringa animation to the women’s group in town. Moringa is known as the miracle tree to some due to its nutritious value: it has more calcium than milk, more vitamin A than carrots, more vitamin C than oranges, and many more amazing nutritious facts. An animation is just the word for an organized discussion with a group of Malians. The day before our moringa animation, we had our teachers help us translate what we wanted to tell the women’s group. We didn’t expect much from our animation, especially with our limited language skills, but first thing in the morning we found a circle of women near the soccer field. They fetched us chairs and one by one we read our lines to the group. Afterward, the leader of the group stood up and reiterated what we had told them. This is common in Mali, and if I had to guess, I would think this is a necessity in a mostly illiterate society who have to remember everything that is told to them. However, in her reiteration, we knew they understood our message. She told us they had had a hector of moringa planted before, and they chopped it all down for firewood because they didn’t know how healthy it was. Now they know it has many vitamins, and they will plant the seeds we gave them. I have no idea if they really will plant them, or if they will put any of our advice to use, but it was extremely encouraging to successfully explain a fairly complex topic to a group of Malians and have such a receptive response. 

Another assignment we had was to do a form of gender analysis in our community. (Basically, this is designed to make us think of how all members of a community are affected by a project.) We decided to have our family draw community maps as our form of gender analysis. The idea is that different community groups will draw different places on a map according to their significance, i.e., the men will always include the mosque and the women will always include the water pump. This sounds great in theory. I was excited to see how my family marked the important resources of the community. While I was home for lunch, I asked my mom to draw a map. I should preface that there is no word for ‘draw’ in Bambara, one must use the french word, which I think suggested more drawing pictures than marking down what the important resources are in a community. My mom shook her head and pointed to my sleeping host dad. “Mamadou can do it; I can’t draw,” she said a little sheepishly. “He can do it later. Now, I want you to do it.,” I told her, knowing full well she had the ability, but not sure if I had the ability to explain exactly what I wanted her to do. I held out the notebook, and she took it, held it uncomfortably, hoping I would give up and just ask my dad. I could not get her to put a single mark on the paper. Finally, I drew a line down the middle of the paper and told her it was the big road through town. “Now, where’s our house?” I asked. “Here,” she said, pointing to the ground. I pointed to the paper, asking, “Here?” and she agreed, yes, our house was here. Through some prodding, I got my mom to list the important things in town: our cows, our donkeys, our donkey cart, our faucet, the pump, the mosque, the dugutigi’s house, the school, the fields, etc. And she understood the exercise the longer it went along, and was fully capable of pointing to abstract places on the paper to show spacial relations to other things in town.

Encouraged, I walked to the other side of the compound to ask the other women to draw a map. I thought I might have luck with Koro or Batuma, both 12 year old girls. I explained to Koro what I wanted, and she said she couldn’t do it. All the women told me again to ask Mamadou. I told them of course they could do it, and again tried to hand off my notebook. I had no takers. Batuma told me she could draw a map of Mali, but not one of S New. Drawing a map of S New was just preposterous. They even had Bra bring his schoolbook outside and show me the map of Mali. After a few minutes of arguing, I relented, and went to class.

Later that evening, I was sitting in my compound near many of the women in my family. I could tell they were discussing our failed map drawing session from the afternoon, howling in laughter. Aby came and sat by me, asking me about the crazy request. I told her I needed her to draw a map, and she, too, told me she was unable. Finally, I reached for a stick and drew a line in the dirt. “This is the big road,” I told them. Then I asked Aby where our house was. She marked it. I asked her where many things were in town. Aby continued to successfully point out many places in town, even when I pointed to blank spaces on the map and asked what was there. After our map was mostly filled in, Aby asked, “That’s what you needed?” I nodded, and all the women howled with laughter. “That’s it?” they asked. “We can do that!” they said.


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  • About Me:

    I am a Peace Corps Volunteer working in Mali for two years promoting sustainable agriculture and environment development.

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    Christina Scheller
    B.P. 02
    San, Mali

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    King Leopold's Ghost - Adam Hochschild
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