WELCOME TO FRIENDS OF THE DOGON
Supporting a women's cooperative in Mali
The Dogon Country (Pays Dogon) is a series of traditional villages surrounding the Bandiagara escarpment in Mali. Famous for its distinct culture, colourful art, traditional architecture, symbolic masks and ritualistic dancing, it was a popular tourism destination until 2011, when Islamic militants in the north of the country and spreading armed banditry destroyed tourism to Mali.
Dogon villagers are suffering from drought, poor crop yields, malnutrition, poverty and rural exodus as young people leave the area to look for work. Rainfall in Mali has decreased by 30% in the past 20 years and larger and more frequent droughts have resulted in poor crop yields and increasing malnutrition. Friends of the Dogon supports local initiatives to combat these issues through a women's cooperative, Mere-odjou.
HOW WE HELP
Supporting Mere-odjou, the women's cooperative of Doundiourou
Improving education and combatting malnutrition
Friends of the Dogon is helping Mere-Odjou fight malnutrition by providing all school children in the village with one hot meal per day. Malnutrition affects cognitive development so a balanced daily meal will improve children’s education. The women of Mere-Odjou take turns cooking the meal so that all money raised can be used to buy rice, beans and cooking oil.
Enrollment has increased by 92% to 202 students since the school meal program began in October 2017.
Combatting malnutrition and fighting poverty
We recently funded 100 hens and 10 roosters, a henhouse, shade trees, fenced yard, medicine and feed to start raising chickens in the village. This project is still in its infancy, but soon eggs will supply valuable protein to the school meal program. The villagers will also gain a second source of sustainable income by selling some chickens at the regional market.
Our first project was sheep-rearing, which is now a self-sustaining enterprise. We helped the women buy 45 lambs, which they raised for 6 months and then sold. The money from each sheep sold is divided equally between buying another lamb to raise and providing income to the household that raised it, making the project self-sustainable. The total number of sheep bought is already over twice the initial donation.
Currently, this is the only regular source of income in the village.
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE
Increasing violence across the Sahel has led to many Dogon returning to their ancestral villages in search of safety, creating an internal displacement crisis. We are providing funds for mosquito nets, tarps and food for the 150 refugees who have arrived in Doundiourou seeking safety until they can be integrated into the community.
TREES AGAINST THE DESERT
Combatting desertification and fighting poverty
In an effort to combat desertification, stabilize the soil and provide a natural crop insecticide and nutritious food source, Mere-odjou would like to start a plantation of pourghère, moringa trees and native fruit trees as a shelter belt around the village. Moringa and fruit harvests will also provide income and valuable nutrients for the villagers.
WHO WE ARE
MADAME ATTA GUINDO
President of Mere-Odjou
Madame Guindo was chosen by the women of Doundiourou for her seriousness and dedication and her ability to get along with everyone. Born in Toroli, a small Dogon village in the Seno plain, she married into Doundiourou where she farms millet, peanuts and beans and is the mother of 4 children. She never had the opportunity to go to school, but is dedicated to helping all children have access to education as well as to the socio-economic development of the village.
Field Coordinator of FoD
Born in Doundiourou Seno (no close relation to Madame Atta), Mamadou had to walk 8km for primary school, then attend secondary school 20km away. He tried to continue his education in Bandiagara but could not afford to finish his studies, returning to the village to work as a tourist guide to support the education of his brothers and sisters. When tourism collapsed, he gathered the women of the village to form an association to try to address the crisis. He followed CEAP training (Champs École Agro-Pastorale) given by the FAO, after which he organized a group of 25 households to train them in agricultural and pastoral techniques and village saving and credit associations. Mamadou speaks 5 languages, including Dogon, Bambara, French, English and Peulh.
President of FoD
Serge worked on seven missions for Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), as a logistician, administrator and project coordinator, in Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo and Myanmar. Presently teaching, he is active in several associations, with a focus on promotion of solar energy and support to refugees newly arrived in Switzerland. He is also a member of the city council of Leysin, Switzerland. (MSc Environmental sciences, UNIL, MEd Haute Ecole Pedagogique, Lausanne).
Vice-President of FoD
Having lived in Tanzania for two years as a child, Audie has always been drawn to Africa. She studied lions for two years in the Serengeti before moving to humanitarian work for Doctors without Borders. She has worked as logistics coordinator for relief projects in the Republic of Congo and in Darfur, as well as in Myanmar. In between projects, she has guided bicycle and hiking trips around the world for Butterfield and Robinson, as well as pursuing personal bicycle adventures in central Asia. She currently lives in Switzerland where she teaches natural science at a post-secondary college. Audie is the Vice-president of Friends of the Dogon. (MSc Biodiversity Conservation, University of Leeds; BSc Zoology, University of Guelph; MEd Haute Ecole. Pedagogique de Lausanne)
DR. HENKKA KUOKKANEN
Treasurer of FoD
Henkka is an international educator and academic researcher who has been involved in sustainability and corporate social responsibility for the past 15 years. Prior to his academic career, he worked in multinational business finance which led him to become an entrepreneur in corporate social responsibility consulting. His key research and practical interest lies in transforming the often abstract concept of responsibility into practical projects that create significant impact to local livelihoods. He also has experience serving on the board of an international research organization. Henkka, a native Finn, is based in the Alps. He is the treasurer of Friends of the Dogon. (PhD, Business and management, Leeds Beckett University; MSc Economics, Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration)
Secretary of FoD
Saakje has worked in wildlife research for several conservation NGOs and now works in ecology monitoring in Jasper National Park in Canada. With her sister, Audie, she both lived in Tanzania as a child and worked guiding cycling trips for Butterfield and Robinson around the world. She has also travelled extensively on independent cycling epics, including a trip across Mali where she made friends with Mamadou and the villagers of Doundiourou. (MSc Forest and Nature Conservation, University of Wageningen; BSc Biology, University of British Columbia).
Adviser to FoD
Craig is an entrepreneur from New Zealand, now based in Switzerland. His extensive world travels included a cycling trip across Mali with Saakje where they made friends with Mamadou and the villagers of Doundiourou. He is presently working on a new start-up company and is an advisor to Friends of the Dogon. (Bcomm Marketing, Auckland University).