First village visit

I was invited to document a solar power initiative in Mali headed by NOTS Foundation. Plenty to read about Mali on wikipedia if you are interested. It must be said that I do not speak for NOTS. These are my observations. In a nutshell the project is focused on setting up a business selling and servicing small scale solar power systems for villages living off the grid. NOTS has been active in Mali for some time. Plenty of NOTS activity in Mali that I have not seen. I can talk about what I have seen in my short time.

It started with a group meeting on invitation from the village chiefs. I came along to document the meeting. This particular fisher village is located inside of Bamako yet off the power grid. Can't speak to how this village lives compared to those in the rest of the country but this village very well organized and traditional. I live in Badalabougou and see these fishermen casting their nets in the morning and evening along the Niger River.

Long story short the meeting was interesting to be the fly on the proverbial hut. As part of the agreement I was allowed to take my camera out of the bag and document the proceedings.

This solar panel is part of the solution. It is capable of charging two rechargeable LED light systems and a couple of mobile phones per day. Perfect family unit size and not too expensive for the villagers.

It was fascinating to watch the mobile phones come out of the pockets at the end of the meeting. Nokia still rules in these parts. I've gone back to Nokia in Africa as well. I get 5-8 day standby on one charge. My smart phone gets 5-8 hours..

Everyone has a phone. I've seen farmers pull dusty phones out of their pockets to take pictures of their crops. These same farmers also work the land with pick axes and watering cans. I will try to document this once figure out a way to gain access and trust.

It boggles my mind to think about what will happen once these isolated pockets of the world have access to wireless internet. They are jumping over running water, the electricity grid, computers, and straight onto the mobile internet speedway. When the locals stand around my computer as I work we talk about how complicated a computer is. I have explained a few times now that my computer is no more complicated than their phone and that within the next few years their phone will be more powerful than my crappy computer. Always fun to watch the reaction at this point. Then also I tell them my smart phone battery lasts about 8 hours if I'm lucky and then they say 'pas bon'!

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