Providing water in an area of good pasture outside the elephant range for the people living around Lake Banzena has been a top priority for the Mali Elephant Project. This is to enable the local population to move from Lake Banzena and leave this key dry season water for elephant use only (see blogpost “Action at Lake Banzena”).
Sinking three boreholes sounds straightforward but the reality has been an adventure — full of ups and downs — as we have had to grapple with difficult terrain, deep and fractured water tables, match administrative and operational requirements, the resurgence of troubles in the north of Mali and all that goes with that. However determination, persistence and commitment from all concerned – the community, project personnel, the Mali government’s Direction of Water and Forests, and our courageous contractor, Boly — has meant that this week we have reached a watershed. The boreholes have been completed and we have evidence that our strategy is working.
The numbers of cattle have diminished greatly at the lake, and Lake Banzena did not dry this year, despite poor rains last year. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief as the rains have begun to fall. The people have already begun to move, with four out of the eleven clans having relocated to the new site.
The community-forester patrols are now autonomous, and continue to patrol with the camels donated by the project, and the amount of illegal wood cutting, charcoal burning and hunting has diminished markedly. Work is continuing with the adjacent communities who want to join in the process of developing community resource management systems.