Notes to broadcasters
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For many years, people in Mali have known of the jatropha plant, but it was only used by women to make traditional soap. Lately, knowledge about this plant has been increasing, thanks to development projects such as those coordinated by the Mali Folkecenter that have highlighted the plant’s potential.
We met Saran Sangaré, president of a women’s group for the promotion of jatropha in the rural community of Gralo, in the Bougougouni Prefecture, in the Sikasso Region. Ms. Sangare was attending the National Forum on the Environment held in Bamako on January 28 and 29, 2009. The forum was organized by the Mali Folkecenter.
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My name is Aboubacar Camara. I’m your host at Radio Kayira in Bamako.(Pause, and to Ms. Sangaré)
Good morning Madame, you recently participated in the National Forum on the Environment and Climate Change organized by the Mali Folkecenter. Please introduce yourself and tell us what have you learned from this forum?
Hello, my name is Saran Sangaré. I’m from the rural district of Gralo, over 200 kilometres from Bamako, the capital of Mali. This is the third time I have participated in this forum. The first year, I learned that there were people who destroyed our environment. We have since held local meetings to find solutions. We have conducted an awareness session for those who destroy our forests and our fruit trees. For example, some women in different villages in Mali knock the unripe fruit out of the tree using sticks and the fruit falls to the ground. This is not good for the fruit. Women have organized themselves in groups to stop this practice.
Regarding the problem of deforestation, during the forum we discussed improved stoves that use less wood. As for the forum this year, we will report back to our village in order to improve the protection of our environment.
Ms. Sangaré, you have undertaken an activity in your village to plant jatropha. How is that going?
We have been planting jatropha for the past three years. The first plantations died. At first, people were not interested in the plantation. The plantation was not maintained, because the seeds did not sell. However, today, the sale of seeds and the production of plants has become an income-generating activity for people. The seeds used to remain on the ground where they fell. But now, people collect the seeds twice a year. Jatropha seed collecting has become an economic activity for men, women, young and old. The Mali Folkecenter’s work with women and farmers in promoting and developing the jatropha seed industry, as well as their purchase of seeds to produce oil, has allowed people, especially women, to take full advantage. The seeds are sold for 50 CFA francs per kilogram(Editor’s note: less than 0.10 US dollars)
in August. This is a good month for the seeds because it rains a lot in Mali at this time of year. Currently, 40 kilograms of our jatropha seeds can produce ten litres of jatropha oil.
Jatropha has been useful. We not only extract oil from jatropha, but we also use the residues or wastes to make soap.
Since jatropha oil has been produced in your town, how has it changed your life? In other words, how have women benefited from planting jatropha?
The whole village can testify to the benefits. For example, streetlights powered by jatropha oil have been installed. There is a school with three classrooms and 240 students in each classroom. All of the students except for seven passed their exams, because the students who did not have electricity in their homes could sit beneath the streetlights to do their homework. All of the Grade 6 students passed their exams. So education in schools has greatly improved. This is a great source of pleasure for us.
Do women who work on jatropha oil production do it individually or as part of an association or group? If the production is done within an association, how long has it existed and how many women work with the association?
Since 2006, we have been working in groups. In 2006, we met with some state officials, and that is when we first planted 20 hectares of jatropha. In our village, each district has more than 200 women who are part of women’s groups. There are five women’s groups and each has four hectares of jatropha. We have also planted other crops in the fields. One of the main lessons that we learned from the jatropha project is the importance of having the support of local elected representatives for the success of the project. We really want to thank them all for their dedication.
What challenges are you facing?
One difficulty is that not everyone is at the same level of understanding and awareness. When we return to our village after the forum, we will gather the villagers together to make sure that they are all at the same level in terms of information. We will talk more about the advantages of jatropha, but also we want to talk about changing behaviour with regards to protecting the environment. Aside from that, we have not had any other major difficulties.
What is the name of your association and how many people are members?
Our association is called “Saniya” or “cleanliness.” The association has 500 women members and I am the president.
Saran Sangaré, thank you for all this information and we wish you good luck and success in your business.
Contributed by: Camara Aboubacar, Journalist, and Siaka Traoré, Head of Communications and ICTs, Radio Kayira, Mali, a Farm Radio International broadcasting partner.
Reviewed by: Neil Noble, Practical Answers Technical Adviser, Practical Action
We would like to extend a special thanks to the management at Mali Folkecenter who facilitated the interview, and the editorial team at Kayira Network.
The interview took place on January 29, 2009 in Bamako.