Who we are

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 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.


Mamadou Guindo

Field Coordinator of FoD

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 Pfister

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)


Audie Hazenberg

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)


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 candidate, Business and management, Leeds Beckett University; MSc Economics, Helsinki School of Economics and Business Administration)


Saakje Hazenberg

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)


Craig Stoddart

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)


Smart Cuts Ltd

Professional partner to FoD

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

Our story

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.

Projects of Mere-odjou

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!

Women of Mere-Odjou

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.

UNICEF - Girls' education and gender equality.
Women of Mere-Odjou

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.

Women of Mere-Odjou

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.

Women of Mere-Odjou

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.

Women of Mere-Odjou

Donate Now

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.

  • $120 Canadian / €80 / 90 CHF will buy two children hot school meals daily for one year.
  • $50 Canadian / €35 / 38 CHF will pay for one lamb and its medication. In 6 months, the sheep can be sold for twice the purchase price. Half the sale price will be used to buy another lamb for another woman in the cooperative to raise and sell.
  • $20 Canadian / €14 / 15 CHF will feed a child with a hot school meal daily for 3 months
Of course, any amount you can donate will be extremely helpful to the villagers. We are grateful for whatever you can give. Thank you so much!

Special Christmas Gift Donation

Want to give something meaningful this Christmas?... a gift that keeps on giving?

  • For 28 CHF (USD 28, EUR 25, GBP 22, CAD 38, NZD 42) you can buy a chicken and its share of a concrete building, fenced enclosure and medical care. This will provide eggs, protein and an income to the whole community.
  • We have a print-at-home PDF gift card that you can personalise. Just click here to download.
  • For payment by paypal or credit card click a button below.

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News and Context

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.
Click here to read the full article.


Bamako - A dozen people were killed in clashes between herders and farmers from separate ethnic groups over the weekend in central Mali, as jihadist tensions drive conflict in rural communities.
Increased availability of arms from Libya has contributed to intercommunal violence in Mali, experts say, while drought has forced herders into areas traditionally cultivated by farmers.
Click here to read the full article.


AGADEZ, Niger — The world dismisses them as economic migrants. The law treats them as criminals who show up at a nation’s borders uninvited. Prayers alone protect them on the journey across the merciless Sahara.
But peel back the layers of their stories and you find a complex bundle of trouble and want that prompts the men and boys of West Africa to leave home, endure beatings and bribes, board a smuggler’s pickup truck and try to make a living far, far away.
Click here to read the full article.

Other Services

Bamako — PEACE keepers in Mali are enduring daily attacks from militants thriving on the anarchy prevailing in the country. Two attacks have been recorded this week, which left several members of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma) and civilians injured.
Click here to read the full article.

Other Services

The main separatist group in northern Mali says government forces are not sticking to a ceasefire agreed almost two years ago.
Last month, the Tuareg-dominated Co-ordination of Azawad Movements suspended its participation in a committee responsible for carrying

*Please refresh the webpage if no video appears here.

The risk of violence in northwest Africa’s Sahel region has severely damaged the tourism industry. That’s been the case in Mali where five years of instability have led to a reduction in tourist numbers.

*Please refresh the webpage if no video appears here.

A silent crisis is threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in a poverty-torn country under siege from terrorists and largely forgotten by the West. Starvation has long been a problem in the West African nation of Mali, which is blighted by drought and food shortages on the edge of the Sahara.
Click here to read the full article and watch the video.

Other Services


Would you like more information? Please send us a message here or contact us by email at info@friendsofdogon.org, and we'll get back to you quickly. Thanks for reaching out!


  • Friends of Dogon, c/o Smart Cuts Sàrl,
  • Ch. du Bosquet 38, CH - 1030 Bussigny
  • info@friendsofdogon.org
  • +41 (0)21 311 9845
  • +41 (0)78 672 6645