We are a non-profit association without religious or political affiliations, registered in the canton of Vaud, Switzerland, formed to support Mere-Odjou. Mere-odjou is a cooperative association formed in 2014 by the women of Doundiourou Séno (rural community of Dourou) in Mali. It means “path of kinship” in the local Dogon language. All of our association's work is completely voluntary so there are no overhead costs; all money raised goes directly to the village association to fund their own initiatives.
To stay updated with what is happening with the project and the village, please go to our Contact Page to subscribe to our quarterly newsletter. Thanks!
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.
Born in Doundiourou Seno, 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.
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)
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)
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 candidate, Business and management, Leeds Beckett University; MSc Economics, Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration)
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)
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)
Smart Cuts has kindly agreed to act as professional sponsor to Friends of Dogon. This video production company based in Lausanne, Switzerland, provides FoD with logistical and technical support.
To the Smart Cuts website
Friends of Dogon also collaborates and supports the Doundiourou Association
Saakje and Craig made friends with the villagers of Doundiourou during a bicycle trip across Mali back in 2002. They were cycling in the Dogon region, en route to Timbuktu, when after a day of pushing their bikes through loose sand in 45°C heat, they stumbled into a tiny village on the edge of the desert.
Although they spoke none of the local languages and no-one else spoke French, the villagers made them welcome until Mamadou Guindo, a student at the time, returned from school and could translate into French for them. They spent their most wonderful and memorable evening in Mali in this tiny village, learning local dances from the children as everyone danced to drums in the moonlight.
We remained in touch with Mamadou over the years, and when tourism to the region stopped and the droughts became worse, he turned his education towards helping the village women form a cooperative. Although they registered the association with the district government, they received no support and are struggling, so we pitched in to buy the first 20 sheep for the village. It was such an amazing opportunity to give back to a place where we had enjoyed such carefree adventures that we decided to create the Friends of the Dogon to increase our impact at the community level, without layers of administration or overhead costs, just direct project support and shared humanity.
The women of Doundiourou Séno founded the cooperative association Mere-Odjou to work towards combatting poverty, ending childhood malnutrition, supporting girls’ education and stemming the exodus of rural youth. The Friends of the Dogon are helping the women of Mere-Odjou to reach their goals by supporting the following projects:
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, with over half the population living on less than $1.25 per day. Lack of education, malnutrition and conflict are considered to be the main causes of poverty in Mali. Find out more.
Our first project was sheep-rearing, which is now a self-sustaining enterprise. We have helped the women to buy 45 lambs. The money from each sheep sold is divided between buying another lamb to raise and providing income to the household that raised it, making the project self-sustainable, and the total number of sheep bought is already over twice the initial donation.
Many thanks to everyone who helped to buy sheep, your generosity has supported the only regular cash-income in the village. Thank you!
90% of rural Malians rely on subsistence agriculture, but rising temperatures and increasing droughts due to climate change are disrupting farm yields. Malnutrition is a serious issue, with one in three children under 5 showing stunted growth.
Read more here.
Friends of the Dogon are 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. The chicken project will also provide eggs for the lunch program, and gardens and fruit trees, also in our future plans, will further supplement the meals.
Read The World Food Program on benefits of providing school meals.
The school meal program also supports girls’ education by providing an incentive for parents to keep their daughters in school. Girls’ education is a critical means to reaching other development objectives as well as being a right in itself. According to UNICEF, “Educating girls helps break the cycle of poverty: educated women are less likely to marry early and against their will; less likely to die in childbirth; more likely to have healthy babies; and are more likely to send their children to school.”
We encourage all children to attend school by supplying a free school meal, which also enables them to focus better on their studies; enrollment has increased by 30% to 136 students since the school meal program began in October 2017.
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 (Jatropha curcas, sometimes known as Barbados nut) and moringa trees. The oil of the pourghère plant, combined with leaves from the neem trees that grow in the village, forms an organic insecticide that protects crops from the insects that destroy a large proportion of each harvest. Moringa is a fast-growing, drought resistant tree considered a super-food, with highly nutritious leaves and seed pods.
Stabilizing the soil and combatting crop pests will boost yields and help fight malnutrition as well as provide a more promising farming future for the young men who are migrating out of the area. Fencing, watering and caring for the plantation will also provide some employment, and extra seed oil could potentially be sold as a bio-fuel.
A second planting project will involve creating a local tree nursery, to provide seedlings of climate-adapted multi-purpose trees for reforestation projects in neighbouring communities; this will both help against desertification and create competencies and longer-term employment for village youth. Drought-tolerant fruit trees will be included to provide additional benefits in terms of nutrition and potentially as cash crops.
Hunger and lack of jobs are driving young Malians to leave their villages to look for work, often at great risk. By helping to address the food crisis, supporting education and boosting the local economy through the sheep and chicken projects and the plantations, Mere-Odjou hopes to ease the pressure on youth and create more hope for young people in the village.
The Daily Mail - No country for young men: Mali loses youth to the migrant crisis.
A serious constraint for the villagers is that all water currently is drawn by hand from wells which are over 25m deep. This is both extremely time-consuming and physically very hard on the village women, several of whom have suffered miscarriages possibly resulting from the strain. The installation of a solar-powered pump would alleviate the burden on women, freeing them up for more productive work, and would enable the development of small vegetable gardens and the planned tree nursery.
After the success of the sheep-raising project, our next project involves raising chickens. We are currently raising funds to build a shelter and fenced yard, as well as to buy 100 hens, 10 roosters, shade trees and the feed and medicine needed to start the project and support it until it is self-sustaining. Eggs produced will supply valuable protein to the school meal program, and chickens raised will be sold at the regional market to provide a second source of regular, sustainable income to the village.
If you would like to help support the villagers of Doundiourou in their fight against poverty and malnutrition and in support of education, all contributions go directly to the village projects and are very much appreciated.
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A Mali-based al-Qaeda affiliate has released a video of six foreign hostages ahead of a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to the country. They include a French NGO worker, an elderly Australian surgeon and a Colombian nun. No "genuine" negotiations to release them have taken place, the video says. Mr Macron is in Mali to consolidate western backing for a regional force against the militants.
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