The Barrage at Mafele in use today

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The barrage at Mafele

Yinindougou is a commune in the Bougouni circle of the region of Sikasso in the south west of Mali. The commune is made up of 11 villages with Mafélé as the main centre. The commune covers 1,360 square kilometres and annual rainfall averages 1,200 to 1,500 mm concentrated within a rainy season in June and July. The vegetation is Guinean savannah. Poor rains and limited capacity for water storage has had a significant adverse effect on cultivation.

The population of Yiningdougou is 4,857 50.2% of them women, and the 11 villages are linked by rural tracks, with good cooperation between the villages because of marriage links. However Yiningdougou is one of the poorest Communes in Bougouni, and one of the significant social problems is the exodus of young people from the area.

Two water courses cross Yiningdougou- the rivers Baoule and Degou. The small river concerned in this project is the Wony at Mafélé- which flows only during the winter. The Wony is a tributary of the Degou and drains towards the river Baoule.

The village council has consulted widely about priorities and needs. Some of the needs raised have been met- notably building of a small maternity clinic, and some work with women’s groups developed through Jeunesse et Développement. With the help of Mali Development Group the women have developed a market garden with a perimeter fence, and a diesel mill, which frees time from millet pounding and enables them to have more time with their families and for vegetable cultivation. 135 women are involved in the market garden, and this has had a significant impact on local diet and health.

There is however a real problem over water availability, and the drying up of wells has limited activity and prevented further development. The role of women is crucial in the development process, and the Yiningdougou Commune Council, and the village council both want the micro-barrage as a way of sustaining and extending the market gardening and rice growing which are now indispensable to daily life. The barrage, and the raised water table will also increase land available for pasturage - at present there is inevitably some conflict of interest between cultivation and animal husbandry. This was the reason why barriers were needed for the market gardens, and extra pasturage will be a significant secondary gain.

As well as the 1309 inhabitants of the main village many of the surrounding villages will also gain from increased water supply and improved food sustainability. Consistent water supply throughout the year will therefore have major benefits.

A strategy is in place to involve the staff of the community health centre in making the community aware of the safety and health issues associated with the barrage.

The structure proposed is a large concrete barrage, which will allow water to be retained in the Wony throughout the year slowing the loss of water from the riverbed.

Opening of the Barrage

The whole village turns out to witness the formal opening

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Funding for the barrage came from a variety of sources- these include a number of Charitable Trusts, proceeds from Zôe Sinclair’s Marathon, Gifford and of course a substantial number of donations from members and activities. Huge thanks to everyone.

Barrage Opening (and Naming) Ceremony

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Work began in earnest on site at Mafelé at the beginning of 2008. Mark Richardson and Becky Mulley from Gifford arrived in Bamako soon afterwards and after a week’s orientation in Bamako went down to Mafelé. For the next four weeks they worked alongside the contractor and local people, living in the village. Each week a log of their progress was sent to New Civil Engineering magazine (it is viewable here). Mark and Becky give a moving account of the importance of the project to local people and their realisation that water is a very precious commodity. Both of them did a great job, and were very appreciative of the support they had from Jeunesse et Développement especially Tanty Samake. We hope that Gifford will keep up its involvement in the project with a follow-up next year, and perhaps other projects into the future.

The Barrage at Mafele

In use as a laundry!

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