Sunday, August 9, 2009

Madinel: Our very own randomly selected village

We completed 100 household surveys on this side of the river. So yesterday we visited our first rural field site. In accordance with proper political science protocol, I had my host brother make me a list of villages within the Kayes Rive Droit school district that would actually be accessible during rainy season. From this list of villages, we drew cards to figure out which two we would visit (to complement our urban household surveys on the other side of the river). The first village was called Madinel and although on the other side of the river - we were told that we could take a moto taxi down the main road towards Senegal and then cross the river in a Pirogue and then we would be in Madinel.

We left around 8:30 in the morning (I knew even then that this was way too late of a start). We walked 1km to the moto taxi junction and waited for a moto taxi. Eventually we found one that was heading towards Allahhena - the village where we would need to get out and walk to the river. We (4 team members) squeezed into the moto taxi with 6 other people. We jumped out at the Allahena road sign and walked another 1-2km along a dirt trail to a river, where we found a pirgoue to take us across the river. We asked around and we told to follow a dirt trail along the river - we did so for about 3km until a farmer stopped us and asked where we were going. We turned us back around on the right path - we had been heading straight to the fields. He jokingly asked me if I knew how to cultivate. By now its about middway and the Kayes sun is no joke. We forgot to bring water and I left my sunscreen in Bamako. We finally get to the village and have to wade through murky water in order to climb the hill to the village entrance.

This being our first venture into rural zones we know that that their is protocol to follow, but we unsure if we should sacrifice the time needed to find the chief and to get his consent. Since the village is small, we opt to find the chief. We get to his compound and learn that he is at a funeral in a neighboring village - bad sign. My RAs improvise and ask to see his younger brother. He is in the fields. Someone goes to get him -we are waiting. Time is ticking, the sun is hot, and the village has no potable water. So, I decide we should meet the brother in the fields. We march back into the sun to the fields. We find the brother and we all return to the compound. After some negotiation (mad props to RA Guindo for his Pular skillz) and we are allowed to start. It's almsot 1.

People in the village are very friendly and welcoming. Its only probably 10-15km from Kayes, but there is no trace of government services except for torn posters that remain plaster onto the mud houses - reminants from the municipal election campaigns. There is no school or health center in the village. The pump is broken, so they get their water from the river. Last year there was a cholera outbreak. When asked what kind of school they would recommend for a neighbor - many respondents say - any school - madrassa, public, whatever - they just want a school. Oddly, many people are very tied to ADEMA (the dominant political party in Mali). The rates of people claiming affiliation to a party are much higher than in Bamako - interesting as it is hard to see evidence of anything that any party or government official has done. My guess about the strong party affiliation is that poltical parties target villages for campaigns due to high social capital and group affiliation (same way someone would target a church in the US). If you get the chief's vote- you get everyone's vote (almost).

The chief finally returns and an interviewee from early in the day spots me and introduces me (people speak Bambara too - even though they are all Peule). He is extremely nice. Turns out he spent 5 years working in France before independence back when Malians were still French "citizens" and didn't need visas. He seemed very entertained by our presence. He invites us to eat at his house. After 16 or so surveys we are exhausted and retire to the chief's compound to eat some fishy sauce and rice. We buy a sheep - pile into a pirogue and head back to the other side of river. We walk some kilometers to the road. There is little transport. Buses don't want to pick us up because there is a police road block between our new location and Kayes. We walk along the road with our sheep. Guindo and I decide to jog to the police post. We buy water and coke - it tastes amazing. Finally we get a moto taxi to take us home. It's nearly 6pm.

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