Yaya Coulabaly is part of a group called Fasokan Segou which uses the Internet to connect with the world outside Mali. Here he tells us more about the project, and life in rural Mali.
Hello Yaya, thank you for taking the time of answering our questions. Can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello and first of all a big thank you to Eddie Avila from Rising Voices and Lucy Chatburn from PocketCultures for giving me the opportunity to talk of rural Mali and our blog.
My name is Yaya Coulibaly, I’m 27 and am agronomist (agricultural technician and engineer). I play football and love soft music as it allows me to work on my data without losing focus.
Since my father died in 2002 I have been living with my uncle in Cinzana, a town that is 37km from Segou the third largest city in Mali.
This region is the land of the Bamara, an ethnic group that is traditionally known for its quality care. I have always lived in Mali and travel very little.
What can you tell us about Mali?
Mali has nearly 14 million people whose official language is French but 80% also speak Bambara, the language of the main ethnic group in the country.
65% of Mali is deserted or semi-deserted and economic activity is concentrated in the rich regions irrigated by the Niger River that are ideal for the cultivation of millet. About 80% of the population works in agriculture or fishing.
What are the status and problems of rural areas in your country?
I am passionate about my job and agricultural research as they give me not only the opportunity to better know my country but to draw attention to working and living conditions in rural areas of Mali and to the need for more means.
My days are busy researching. My job is to analyze all data collected during the observation of different plants and species and the comments of the farmers collaborating with us.
My research work allows me to work on how to optimize performance, quality and adaptation to the environment of Chinese and Malian millet by improving hybrids and local varieties.
But rural Mali suffers from several problems. The first problem is the lack of seed varieties adapted to the environment (my research aims to rectify this).
The second is the lack of resources and equipment. Sadly most of the information published by the media focuses on the big cities but the rural world is forgotten.
How can you draw attention to rural Mali and help correct these problems?
We have Fasokan Segou, a group that was founded in 2009 by Boukary Konaté. The group consists of eight members. There are seven teachers and students; I’m the only agronomist. We are good friends and share the same ambitions for our country.
Fasokan is very interested in the lives of rural populations, not only in their work and challenges but also their customs and traditions. This contributes to let the world know that Mali is not only made of big cities such as Bamako and Segou …
We at Fasokan decided that the Internet was the best way to make our voices heard, to make foreigners discover our rural world and its problems as obviously we can reach a large audience, a worldwide audience! It is also a quick way in which information flows instantly. There is no time lag.
So we created a blog: http://fasokan.wordpress.com/ of which Boukary Konaté is the editor.
The blog is in French and Bamanankan and is not only about agriculture but also about traditions, cultural events, weddings, seasons, news items. In fact it’s about daily life.
Why is internet so useful to you?
Mali has been equipped with the Internet since 1996 and the number of subscribers continues to grow at very high speed.
Nearly 27.55% of the Malian population has Internet. This represents over 3,850,000 listed subscribers to date mainly spread in the large cities. Internet is therefore a fantastic medium of information to us.
You mentioned earlier the lack of resources plaguing the Mali?
Do you have a computer?
No unfortunately I don’t but I use the Internet at my friends’ or in Internet cafes where I can work on the blog. I don’t have a digital camera either and can’t provide you with pictures of farmers who collaborate with us.
How do you write then your articles for the blog?
All group members write articles and we send them to the editor by SMS. All articles are published. I spend at least two hours per day working on the blog. Farmers know that we have created the blog to help them and in return encourage us in our adventure. It is very rewarding for us.
How do you promote your blog?
First, the very nature of my research and the articles we publish on the blog allowed us to get in touch with Eddie Avila from Rising Voices who in turn put us in contact with PocketCultures for this interview.
This interview is an important opportunity for us to make Fakosan known. I hope that the snowball effect will occur.
The second way for us to promote the articles on the blog is of course to establish a maximum of links with other bloggers worldwide.
The third way is the diversity of our articles that allows us to reach readers with various interests.
The following examples of our articles will give you an idea of what we write about:
“More than seven hundred weddings celebrated in the municipalities of Bamako today”;
or “An elephant made havoc in the rural community of Macina in the Segou region”;
“CreAlama, a Bogolan artist for the valuation of Malian culture “;
or“Village Technology, an independent radio station created in the village with an mp3 and a memory card”…
So, yes blogging is the best way for us to communicate with the outside world.
What are your plans for the future?
I wish I had a laptop in order to write more articles and a digital camera to make quality pictures of farmers at work to show readers from all around the world what is happening in rural Mali.
Yaya, thank you for this interview and I hope that you and the group Fasokan realize all your projects through your blog and the Internet. Thank you to Lucy Chatburn of PocketCultures and Eddie Avila of Rising Voices.
Fasokan is a Rising Voices grantee. Read more about them in this article about hacking together rural internet access on Rising Voices.
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