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Mark's blog - Arrival in Mali

Mark Richardson and Rebecca Mulley have arrived in Mali to build a barrage across the Woni River, near the border with Ivory Coast, to help with irrigation in this arid region.

Week 1 – Introduction to Mali

Becky [Rebecca Mulley] and I have travelled from England to Mali to work on an engineering project in a remote southern region of the country. Our company, Gifford, is backing us and made a contribution towards the cost.

The project is to build a barrage across the River Woni that will allow water from the rainy season to be collected in reservoirs and made available to local villagers all year round for growing vegetables and fruit.

Leaving behind a frozen England for a hot climate seemed sensible but the relentlessness of the heat that can reach 30c even at night is only too apparent. We're in Bamako, the capital of Mali, for the first couple of days.

It's half way through the dry or dusty season now, and temperatures will climb towards 50°C by June, at which point storms will rip across the country, bringing rain and life.

In Bamako, Chinese construction investment is taking concrete higher and roads further. George Bush receives the democratically elected Malian president – Amadou Toumani Tou or ATT as he is known here - so the country is forging alliances.

Classic urbanisation at one level, classic globalisation at another; African villagers plugged into the global world. A vibrancy, traditionally expressed through music, effervesces through life here. For us it's a week of acclimatisation: the French language, food and the heat.

Today we sat in on a site meeting in Bamako for a project to build a medical warehouse and administration building. There is a delay in the external quality assurance sign off. The architects however seem confident they can deliver on time.

Planning regulations are tight in Bamako and all plans must pass through seven departments ranging from fire to environmental. No building without sign off. In Bamako at least, an engineer could be forgiven for thinking he was in a UK structured design and delivery team… apart from the language and winter heat at least.

Further afield however, in remoter regions like Mafèlè where the barrage is being built, planning regulations are apparently less enforced. It is a long way south of Bamako. There will be no fresh water, no electricity, no internet.

The project that we will be appraising is underway, approaching its mid point of 27 days. It’s all hands on shovels as local people construct their barrage. We're looking forward to arriving at Mafèlè to see for ourselves.

... To be continued

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