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Solar Solutions to the Rural Exodus in Mali
The First Steps of the Mali Folkecenter
By Tom Burell, Jane Kruse, and Ibrahim Togola, respectively of The Danish and Mali Folkecenters for Renewable Energy.
Danish Government to Fund Rural Solar Electrification
The Danish Folkecenter for Renewable Energy, together with the Mali Folkecenter, received funding of 2.3 million DKK from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs for a project to combat rural exodus. The project started in June, 2000, and will be implemented in the villages of Tabakoro, Niamala, and Zambala, in the Sikasso region of Mali, 200 km south of Bamako. The total population of the 3 villages is about 3000.
The villagers provide 45,000 DKK towards the project. As a percentage of the total cost, this may seem small, but the contribution will give the villagers a sense of responsibility and a feeling of ownership. The money will be collected from the villagers by the village associations.
The Mali Folkecenter is working hand in hand with the villagers to ensure successful completion of the project, with technical support provided by the Danish Folkecenter. Each of the villages has a school and a clinic. The project will last for 3 years, and consists of installation of solar clinics. Electrification of the schools for evening adult literacy classes also serve adult students from the surrounding villages. panels in 3 villages for water pumping, for lighting in schools, and for lighting as well as for refrigeration of medicines and vaccines in the
The project will help to reduce the rural exodus by encouraging diversification of economic activities as well as improvement of health conditions and quality of life. Long-term sustainability will be ensured by the sale of pumped water (at a price all villagers can afford), which will provide funds for social measures and for maintenance of the solar installation. A comprehensive training program will give the villagers the skills they need for management and repairs.
Solar Training School - Looking to the Future
An essential part of the project is the creation of a Solar Training School, where Malian engineers, technicians, and students can get hands-on experience and the concrete skills needed for installation of solar systems. Trainees will learn by installing a total of 10 solar lighting systems in other village schools in the area, gaining the competence necessary for future work. The project will show that solar power need not be expensive (typically less than 1 USD per villager for a school lighting system), and may inspire other village communities to pay for their own installations. This, surely, is the way to achieve widespread use of solar technology. The solar training school will build capacity, creating a knowledge base that can be drawn on in the future, and will help to support adult literacy training for hundreds of people. It is an investment in the people, for the people.
Other Projects
Since October, 1999, when the Malian Folkecenter obtained authorization to work in Mali as an NGO (see article in issue No. 27), it has obtained funding from the UNDP for household biogas installations and from the GTZ (German Corporation for Technical Cooperation) for the training of municipality staff in environmental legislation.
Mali in Need of Rural Electrification
Mali is located in the center of West Africa and has an area of 1,241,000 km2. 80% of the 12 million inhabitants live in the southern third of the country, as the northern two-thirds are desert. Adult illiteracy can reach over 90 % among rural women. In Bamako, the capital of Mali, about 25% of people have access to electricity, but in rural areas, the figure is less than 1%.

Rural Exodus: Draining Rural Communities of Young Talent
Rural exodus is the well-known phenomenon whereby people leave their villages to try and find work in the cities, and it is a problem that needs tackling in many developing countries. It generally occurs because villagers and inhabitants of rural areas, especially young people who represent the future of such communities, feel there are no opportunities where they live. In Mali, it means that people move to the cities during the dry season, mainly to the capital Bamako, to find work. It reduces the human resource base of the villages, robbing the community of many of its most dynamic members, and contributes to all the problems associated with urbanisation: overcrowding, crime, delinquency, drug abuse, prostitution, and the spread of AIDS.

The Folkecenter for Renewable Energy and Mali-Folkecenter are committed to reducing the rural exodus in Mali and West Africa by using alternative energy solutions to improve the conditions of daily life for rural people. This project is an important first step down the long road to sustainable development.
Tom Burrel, more information
Tom Burell will work in Mali on the Folkecenters’ project for the next 3 years on behalf of the Danish Folkecenter. He has a BSc of physics from England and has studied renewable energy technology at the Danish Folkecenter.

Photo text:1
Digging a hole for construction of the digester of a family biogas plant. The Mali Folkecenter is the coordinator of this project, working in cooperation with the Malian Rural Polytechnic Institute. The project will consist of five installations, of which two have been completed. Funding is from the Global Environment Fund (Small Grant Program) of the UNDP.

Photo text:2
A meeting between the Folkecenter team and the leaders of Tabakoro, Niamala, and Zambala, the villages in which the Rural Solar Electrification project will be implemented. The government priorities stated by the Malian President in the areas of education, health, and water supply were found to mirror exactly the needs expressed by rural people. The meeting was part of the feasibility study in 1998 for the present project.

Photo text:3
Malian Folkecenter installing a 75W solar power system for the electrification of the school in the village of Tabakoro. It now provides lighting for evening classes in adult literacy

For further information, please contact:

- Tom Burell and Ibrahim Togola, Regional Director, The Mali Folkecenter, B.P. E4211 Bamako, Republic of Mali.
Ph: +223 200617, fax: +223 200618,
e-mail: mali.folkecenter@datatech.toolnet.org.

- Jane Kruse, Information and Training Program, The Danish Folkecenter for Renewable Energy,
one of the founding members of INFORSE,
P.O.Box 208, 7760 Hurup Thy, Denmark. Ph: +45 9795 6600, fax. +45 9795 6565,
e-mail:energy@folkecenter.dk.
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Sustainable Energy News
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ISSUE #30 (683KB) 18 pages (2000-08-11)
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