Week 3 - Gifford's Rebecca Mulley and Mark Richardson have started work on a barrage at Mafèlè, Mali, to give local people access to a more reliable water supply.
The barrage takes shape.
Mark and I have spent the week fully immersing ourselves in the construction work at the barrage.
The main structure is now in place but the earth banks on either side are being built up gradually and compacted and the barrage itself requires further skimming of good quality cement to ensure water tightness and to prevent erosion.
We have been moving rocks, shovelling earth, sorting out the piles of stones bound for cement and generally helping out where we can. This is easier said than done when the heat is already scorching by 9am. For the locals, working in 37ºC is not considered a problem.
The heat will rise well into the 40s over the next few months.
In addition to the construction work, we have been gathering information for our assessment programme wherever possible. We have prepared questions for the mayor, the chief of the village, the contractor and the villagers themselves, in order to gain an understanding of the impact that this barrage will have on their lives.
Environmentally, the impact of the barrage is difficult to determine. At the barrage itself the riverbed is currently completely dry. However, a walk downstream reveals stagnant pools in shaded areas of the riverbed which somehow manage to sustain fish life.
The barrage will reduce the number of days during which the river will flow past here and therefore the likelihood of these pools surviving the dry season without evaporating is certain to be reduced.
Last Saturday we attended a formal meeting held under the shade of a large tree. It was the monthly progress meeting between the contractor and the design engineer who had driven down from the capital, Bamoko.
Measurements were taken, plans were checked and a last minute design change was introduced. Instead of solely compacting the earth on the banks on either side of the barrage, it was decided that sidewalls will be built to prevent erosion of the banks. Why this was not in the original plans and who is going to pay for the additional materials was not clear.