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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Diary from Mali: IR USA Staff, Anwar Khan

Anwar Khan
Thursday, February 11, 2010

We were up at the crack of dawn and we could see women walking to one of IR's 22 water wells in the area to get the water for the day. Since the deep bore water wells have been built in villages, women do not have to spend half of each day fetching water. Children who were fetching water can go to school. The women, who now have more time, help the men on the land, or do business and provide more income for the family.

We went by road and riverboat to a school, which was very basic. First and second grade are still writing with slate and chalk. The school has three classrooms and five grades.

There is no running water, or sanitation facilities. They eat very basic food on the sand and under the hot sun. They requested a small kitchen to prepare the food in hygienic conditions.

We then took the river boat to a cereal bank. We set up community associations which store cereal in small warehouses.

Our barter rate is five times better than the market rate, according to the locals. They were very appreciative of our help and were asking for basic services, like schools.

We were running late, too much to do and so little time. We got back to Gourma Rharous and left quickly for an irrigation project, which was on the way back to Timbuktu.

The irrigation project is reclaiming fertile land from the desert. We are turning the desert green. The community was dwindling as men were forced to go overseas to support their families. Now they are working on their fields. Families are now staying together, fathers are staying with their sons, husbands with their wives. It is wonderful to see the transformation from desert to fields of crops.

The whole village came to greet us. The women showed us their vegetable gardens. I was given three huge purple onions as a gift to take back to the U.S. It was a wonderful gift from a widow, giving me her best produces and asking us to stay for lunch. We apologized that we could not take the gift, or have lunch. They have so little, yet they are so willing to share.

We visited the school we support. As we sped off into the desert in our trucks, the children ran behind us waving. We did not want to leave, but we have to continue turning the desert green by bringing greater awareness about this cause in the U.S.

It was a 4-hour ride back to Timbuktu. One of our trucks was stuck in the sand. Ten of us and four strangers helped us to push it out of the sand. That evening we visited the U.N. World Heritage site in Timbuktu, the Djingaray Masjid and Sancara University. But, what I will remember most from my trip to the North is the sincerity and warmth of the people.
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