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Meeting with the river : Niger

Chinese portrait of the River Niger – in the eyes of Marie Garnier of the association Karama (Mali).

Marie Garnier is the coordinator of the Karama Association and a teacher by profession. The Karama team works on a daily basis to facilitate access to schooling for children on the banks and islands of the Niger River in Bamako, notably around active and cooperative pedagogy, on the protection of the environment and more particularly that of the Niger River as well as on the transmission of local knowledge. The school that was created is located on Dialagoun Island and today has 220 students.

If the Niger were a figure, “For me it would be the figure 4, because in Mali the figure 3 is reserved for masculine and the figure 4 for feminine. Though for me, water is necessarily very feminine.

If the River Niger were to be one or more countries they would be “Niger, Mali, Guinea and Nigeria: the countries it crosses and of which it is the nourishing river”.

If the River Niger were one or more animals it would be a buffalo because it is a very powerful animal that charges head down. And this river really makes me think of this immense power: it is very big and very wide. As soon as there’s a little wind, it becomes choppy; as soon as there’s a lot of wind, it becomes impossible to sail. Or it could be a manatee: it’s still a big animal but more delicate. Unfortunately, the manatee is also an animal that is disappearing from the River Niger.

If the River Niger were a colour, it would be a rainbow because the river changes colour depending on the day and time: it can change from white to blue, to green and turquoise, and so on. Sometimes it merges completely with the sky. What’s fascinating is sometimes the contrast between morning and evening. It’s magic!”.

If the river were a character, it would be “Mami Wata”! the mythical character of the siren. Mami Wata can be found in many countries. It’s a character that is a little scary and benevolent at the same time. It’s described in several ways. To children, we say “attention! You mustn’t go to the water or Mami Wata will eat you!”. The local people regularly make offerings to Mami Wata to ensure its benevolence”.

If the River Niger were a tale, it would be “Mali Sadio”. It’s a tale that comes from a small village called Bafoulabe. It’s the story of a girl who is very friendly with a hippopotamus and this friendship upsets human beings. This tale tells of the relation between human beings and nature.

If the river were a project “it would be the project to clean, get rid of pollution, and install sewage treatment systems. In Bamako, the River Niger is the prime source of life of the population that lives on its banks. Its water is used for drinking and washing. But today, all the wastewater of the cities is discharged into it, there are fewer and fewer fishes, and constructions are multiplying along its banks, depriving the population access to its bed.  It must be better protected. And to do that it must be better understood, better loved. Our association is carrying out an awareness campaign aimed at the children of the community’s fishermen.

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