The last time I saw a public works project of the scale here in Niono
was in Northern Cameroon. A dam across the Niger River with a road
on top, diverting water into huge canals transporting enormous
quantities of water tens of kilometers to irrigate thousands of
hectares of rice and other crops. Don't take pictures of the dam.
"Non, non, monsieur, strictment interdit!"
The irrigation scheme must be quite profitable, for certainly the
facilities at the Niono station of the Institut d'Economie Rurale are
among the finest I've seen. I'm particularly pleased with
their significant investment in air conditioners, for the temperature
here at this time of year regularly rises above 40, and the
irrigation seems to generate a microclimate of higher than expected
The information services officer of the IER tells me of a computer
that recently failed. After a lengthy inspection, he found that the
motherboard had warped from the constant heating and then cooling as
the air conditioners are turned on and then off each day.
The principal concern for Internet access is the cost of a telephone
call from Niono, some 100 kilometers north of Segou, to Bamako, where
the four principal Internet service providers of Mali are to be
found. An hour of Web surfing from Niono can cost more than F 10,000
CFA (US $18). However, the government owned SOTELMA has now
indicated it is eliminating long-distance tariff charges on calls to
the licensed Internet service providers, so that a call from Niono to
Bamako for that purpose will now fall to perhaps F 2,500 CFA per
hour, the same cost nationwide as the cost in Bamako itself.
Connections from Niono are good, and some limited surfing is feasible
for special needs. PPP connections work well. However the daily
connections from Niono are mostly UUCP to transport mail for the
Niono subdomain of the IER. For a fee of F 150,000 per month (US
$250) an organization has unlimited access to the Malinet server
with an unlimited number of individual email boxes. One email box
with surfing for 15 to 30 hours can be had for as little as F 25,000
CFA per month.
We abandoned Niono our second night, primarily because the "hotel"
(if that's the right word) had a power problem. When I turned on my
air conditioner, it would run for about 10 seconds, and then stop. A
minute later, it would restart on its own for 10 seconds, and then
stop again. It seems the number of air conditioners in the "Centre
d'Acceuil" surpassed the capacity of the transformer to deliver
electricity. I did manage to sleep by 1am when the temperature
finally fell into the upper 30s.
Safely back in Segou at the Hotel de l'Independence, we watched a bit
of CNN in our reasonably cool rooms, and then transfered to the Hotel
de l'Esplanade for our dinner and entertainment. A live band
provided all manner of music in the garden by the banks of the Niger.
An obviously well known and popular singer arrived late, around 11pm,
and sang beautiful songs about Cuba to Latin rhythms.
Then without much explanation, he was followed by a curiously
interpreted rendition of Sweet Home Alabama. I'd not previously
heard that song with a Bamana accent.
Jeff @ Bamako