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AFRIK-IT  May 1998

AFRIK-IT May 1998

Subject:

Mali: Sotuba Projects

From:

Jeff Cochrane <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 15 May 1998 15:22:34 -5

Content-Type:

text/plain

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text/plain (77 lines)

Greetings!

A famous football player -- I believe his name is Salif Keita, same
as the singer -- reportedly has invested some of his earnings
from the professional teams in Europe in a Bamako hotel, the
Hotel Mande, which is where we stayed.  The dining terrace is the
real heart of the hotel, on piers raised some 15 meters above the
waters of the Niger, with pirogues (wood canoes) passing nearby in
the marshes along the banks, distributing and then returning to
collect their nets.

After a petit dejeuner of excellent breads and fruit we stopped by
the directorate of the Rural Economy Institute (IER) to collect their
chief of information services.  She in turn guided us to Sotuba,
north of Bamako along the northern or left bank of the Niger River.
There we found literally dozens of small buildings each housing the
staff of different research programs -- sorghum, maize, rice,
cattle, etc.  After a courtesy call to the Director of the Sotuba
center, our team separated to conduct intensive interviews with
scientists.

I interviewed three.  Much to my surprise, all had recently returned
from a Masters or Ph.D. program in the USA -- Texas A&M, Nebraska,
Kansas State -- courtesy of a USAID-funded Sorghum/Millet research
program that pairs African research institutes with American
universities.

With my first respondent, we first discussed whether Nebraska in
August or Bamako in May was hotter or more humid.  We then talked
about networking -- which I define generally as the regular exchange
of information among persons working on topics of common interest
for the purpose of improving their collective output.

In general, it seems that people network with people they know --
seems obvious enough.  A key result of the exchange program with
the United States is a group of scientists at Sotuba who regularly
communicate with professors at American universities, and who during
their time in America developed a critical understanding of the role
electronic mail can play in collaborative research.

Curiously, at least from my perspective, the communications channels
seem to be two-way rather than multifaceted.  Although others in West
Africa have participated in the research program in America, the
communications seem focused on the scientists and their professors,
rather than among the scientists themselves within Africa.

I asked one scientist if this might be because he simply doesn't know
the addresses of his colleagues.  He replied that he knew all their
addresses, since these are regularly distributed now whenever one
attends a regional meeting.  But he said he sees no particular
programmatic reason to communicate with his peers in neighboring
countries.

I believe that collaboration within a sub-region (e.g. West Africa)
is essential for effective research.  Staff of my office in
Washington agree.  Hence this is an area for us to study further.  A
Dutch scientist and I talked briefly about this.  He suggested that
donors should consider requiring sub-regional collaboration before
granting research funding.

Departing Bamako we crossed the old bridge -- there is now a new
bridge -- and turned south past the airport along the road to Cote
d'Ivoire.  For many kilometers we followed a luxury passenger bus,
air conditioned, and with a video/television mounted on the ceiling
just behind the driver.  I was unable to determine what film was
showing as we passed the bus and sped through a sudden heavy rainfall
near Sikasso.

Cheers!
Jeff @ Sikasso (Southern Mali)
--
[log in to unmask]
http://www.info.usaid.gov/alnk
1111 North 19th Street Suite 210
Arlington, VA 22209 USA
Tel 1-703-235-5415  Fax 1-703-235-3805

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