A local response for safeguarding the river Niger

© UNESCO/Roger, Dominique

Despite the international recognition of the exceptional value of the river Niger, both for its culture and nature, its resources are in danger. Climate change, demography and urbanism jeopardize its future with consequences of decreasing rate of flow, erosion of banks, etc. The European Union and the France-UNESCO Convention have been strongly involved in this project and have been implementing their action plan since 2005.

The Challenges

The project is effective at local level and gives value to the cultures of the river inhabitants. Through understanding and revitalizing some traditional practices and know-how, and above all, encouraging the riverside residents to appropriate the river and its resources, they will make a better use of it. This work of memory will anticipate the deep transformations of the river due to the upriver hydraulic constructions scheduled for the future decade.

Innovative Project

It is endorsed by a "river-to-river" cooperation between Niger and Loire. Inaugurated in 2005, the Loire-Niger Charter mobilizes local riverside communities of the Niger and the Loire and the universities of Val de Loire involved with their counterparts in Mali.    

© UNESCO/ Roger, Dominique

Research to know better the river

Collecting information is one of the major and specific challenges and thus to promote better knowledge of practices and riverside residents' culture. The National Direction of the Heritage has carried out a cultural inventory related to the river. It concerns the tangible (mosques, sahos, etc) and intangible heritage (collective fisheries, agricultural holidays, herd crossing) and « living human treasures» (people having know-how: Healers, boatmen, fishermen, …). Bamako University is the coordinator of an anthropological research on the river cultures. 13 research topics have been initiated such as « Masks and marionettes on the river », « The river Niger resource of cousinage, base of culture and peace » and « Climate change and evolution of fisheries ».

Training for local authorities

Diploma of Higher Specialist Studies « Decentralisation and Ingeneering of the Local development » includes a core curriculum and a specialization. Two new courses have been opened: River Basin Water and Environmental Management and Heritage Management and Sustainable Development. The continuous learning addresses technicians of local authorities, State's civil servants and users. 5 modules of 20 hours each are provided in pilot regions participating in the project (Bamako, Ségou, Mopti/Djenné).

Water management and clean-up pilot actions

8 projects have been implemented, such as reconstruction of the Port of Mopti or creation of a site gathering dry-cleaners in Bamako.

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