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I thought you said “N’Togonasso” October 10th, 2014 by

Last month I was in Mali. Agronomist Samuel Guindo had organized the visits meticulously, and we drove to one village after another, meeting people who always had something original to say, about farmer field schools (FFS), about videos they had watched, about how they were now able to control the world’s worst weed, striga.

The driver, Sidi Dembelé, had fantastic taste in music, ranging from West African strings to Bob Marley to Cuban dance numbers. So the 40 minutes passed agreeably as we drove from the small city of Koutiala to the large village of N’Togonasso, complete with telephone towers, a big school health center and a mairie (the mayor’s office for Gouadji-Kao). Mali is the land of wide open spaces, and there was a vast plaza between the school and the mayor’s office. While people gathered there I amused myself by reading the facts displayed on the school latrine buildings (one for boys, one for girls). Every person makes 438 kilos of “caca” a year.

When a few men came we shook hands and carried chairs from the porch of the school to the shade of a tree. We took our seats in a circle and as people began to politely introduce themselves, we realized that we were in the wrong Village. Well, these things happen. No one in N’Togonasso had seen our striga videos. We were supposed to have gone to N’Tonasso, near the city.

One of the friendly young men, Segou Sogoba, turned out to be the brother of Mr. Bougouna Sogoba, a colleague of ours, the director of AMEDD, an NGO that alleviates poverty through village agriculture. The family connection may have helped lead to the confusion of the villages with similar names. Although the youths in N’Togonasso had never seen the striga videos, Samuel Guindo seized the opportunity, and gave Segou a DVD with an anthology of the ten videos.

Videos, DVDs and TV sets are cutting edge technology in Mali, where you can buy a DVD player for about $30, affordable for a successful farm family. People are buying solar panels and batteries, to run lights and TVs at night, even when they are off the electrical grid.

We asked if any of the guys had a DVD player. One of them did, so Samuel gave him a DVD too. They said they would watch the videos that same day.

In the villages of Mali all the young adults have cell phones, as do many of the older folks. Two days later, Samuel rang up Segou, who said that he had shown the videos to 20 people and that he was impressed by the simple techniques to control striga, such as intercropping cowpea. He had not known how the striga germinates, and was glad to learn about it from the videos. He also said that it is important to make compost in pits, and that the information on the videos was very, very, very important.

In Mali there are some bright young people staying on the land.  They are interested in appropriate new farm technology. Like most places in the world, the youth know more about the latest digital technology than the elders. Videos on DVD make the link between appropriate agricultural innovation and digital technology.

The videos mentioned in the story are: Grow row by row; Striga biology and Composting to beat striga

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