Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Meeting ASCOMA in Mali

Sarah Henson, Grants Management Officer, meets ASCOMA in a house in Mali.

Last week I visited our members ASCOMA in Bamako, Mali, Africa to agree on a process to bring the EC funded biosafety project to a successful close at the end of December 2009.

Bamako appears to be a typical African city – dusty, pot holed roads, lots of traffic and most people risking their lives by travelling by motorbike without helmets and randomly cutting in front of cars.

There is a festival at the end of November so the sides of the roads were filling up with traders selling their sheep for slaughter. As we crossed the magnificent Niger river on the way to meet the ASCOMA staff I had a brief glimpse of fishermen heading out in their canoes and discovered that hippos lurk upstream. It appears that most visitors use Bamako as a stopover before they head on to the Dogon region or to Timbuktu – yes it does exist!

We met the President of ASCOMA, Salimata Diarra, in her house, as there is no power in the part of town where their offices are based, so it’s used mostly as an archive while meetings take place in her house. However she has no Internet connection at home either so all external correspondence has to take place in an Internet cafe, which has obvious cost implications with the taxi to get there and hourly rates to use the Internet. That answers the question of why we hear so rarely from our ASCOMA colleagues!

I was told that the bill on biosafety in Mali was adopted in February 2007 and passed in November 2008, however it is yet to be implemented and the ASCOMA team are carefully watching the frustratingly slow implementation of the law while regularly meeting with the various stakeholders to keep them informed of the process. GMOs is a sensitive subject so the remaining few weeks will be spent on targeted awareness raising of the merits of the law.

It was a short visit but I find it invaluable to have face-to-face meetings and get a real idea of the challenges faced by our members.

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