Managing Change Conflicts and Resolving Pasture Use & Herding Conflicts

Trip Report
6-18 October 2002
SANREM CRSP – West Africa


Purpose of the trip: to build capacity with managing conflicts associated with change; to further develop the pasture plans associated with the villages of Siragourou and Torokoro; and to prepare the committee, herder representatives, environmental monitors, and the affected villages for the descent of the herds from the dry rangelands east of the north-south highway across Madiama Commune to the delta grazing after the harvest. 


October 6-7 (Sunday & Monday) 

I left Willows, CA at 7 am to drive to Sacramento and board my plane to Seattle, with further legs to Detroit, Paris and Bamako.  I arrived in Bamako at 8 pm on the following day.  I didn’t find anyone from IER to take me to the Le Loft hotel so I figured out how to get a taxi that could drive me there. 


October 8 (Tuesday) 

I was awoken by a call from the front desk saying my driver was waiting.  Shortly after that call, I got a call from Salmana saying that he was required to do investigative work for the proposed dam and would be in Bamako for the duration of my trip.  He said he regretted missing my workshops and encouraged me to stop in Mopti. 

After getting ready, I met Ashook, my driver for the next week.  I needed to confirm my return flight at Air France since I was scheduled the day I would arrive back from Djenne, stop at the U.S. Embassy to visit with USAID about my work, get my money exchanged at a bank and stop at IER.   

            We made very good progress on my list of “to-dos” for the day.  The airlines connection went very well.  Getting to the USAID was a little difficult due to heightened security features such as not being able to park nearby.  I met Charlene Dei at USAID.  She helped me get two files printed off from my computer.  One file was the pasture plan developed by Nadif, the holistic management consultant from Tchad, to be given to Abdoulaye Touré.  The other file was a series of phrases representing various consensus building steps that I was to use as a visual to help the community understand the process better and how to adapt the process for various situations.  These phrases were individually printed in large letters on 8 ½ x 11 sheets of paper. 

            After leaving the USAID, we tried to get my banking done, but the banks were closed for lunch.  We were to come back, but first went to the IER station outside of Bamako where Lassine worked and lived.  Lassine was not immediately available so I met with another lead IER official who spoke some English. We talked about my work in Madiama.  He also mentioned the serious drought conditions that much of Mali was facing.  The rains came very late last summer, by one month, then shut off for the year at the regular time.  Consequently, crop yields were reported as being very seriously limiting.  It also appeared that IER was intending for me to spend a couple nights in Mopti before going to Madiama.  This concerned me, as this wouldn’t allow enough time for setting up the final details of the workshops. 

            I got to see Lassine before I left the IER compound.  He was at his home and invited me in for tea.   We sat in his living room and visited.  We talked about his family, then the discussion turned to his present situation. 

           Ashook and I went back to the bank, which was open now.  I got my currency exchanged, though I wasn’t happy with the rates.  Ashook also took me to get a couple bottles of water at the reduced street price.  He took me back to the hotel.  We made arrangements for when to meet in the morning to drive to Mopti.  I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening connecting on Internet to get a copy of my learning manual with the corrections Keith made and to monitor the world events. 


October 9 (Wednesday) 

Ashook picked me up at 7 am.  I could tell he was really anxious to get an early start for the long drive to Mopti.  Unfortunately, his plans to leave promptly were altered as we picked up an administrative person for IER who had been in my first workshop.  He had us go to a couple places before we got started.  I had written down my proposed itinerary on paper and handed it to the administrative person and Ashook to view.  I noted I wanted only one night in Sevare and to arrive in Djenne the night before my first workshop.  That seemed to be all right with them.  The administrative person spoke limited English so we were able to communicate a little.  I enjoy the spirit of the people I meet in Mali.  They seem very rich in their souls. 

We had a good drive.  The crops were indeed severely setback from the lack of reliable rainfall this year.  There has been a tremendously high cost in terms of social displacement and even human life.  One can only imagine what impact this year will have on the stores of food.  What if this is the beginning of an extended drought? 

We arrived in Sevare’ about 3:30 pm.  They dropped me off at the hotel I have stayed in before.  I took a walk to the market place to look for a French-African elementary school science book to learn more about the French words used to describe life in rural Mali.  


October 10 (Thursday) 

We got an early start again and went to the IER regional office in Mopti.  On the way, one passes over the Bani/Niger River floodplain in which rice is grown.  Indeed the water level was very low.  I have been here three times in the fall, after the rainy season, and once in the spring, just before the first rains of the year.  The river was very low compared to other years at this time.  Areas where they grow rice didn’t have rice.  I could only imagine what the river would look like in eight more months.  When we got to IER, I learned the river was down 1 meter compared to last year.  They were very concerned.  I am reading that concern as being very serious.  My mind reflected on the results that Boureima Traoré has demonstrated that stocking cattle on harvested fields increases soil fertility in a significant way and that farmers and herders should be negotiating such relationships as the herds pass through the commune.   

            I had a nice visit with another administrative person at IER.  I am disappointed I don’t catch more names.  He was very helpful in getting my arrangements made, including getting things done for the driver to take me and communicating to the driver what my schedule was, making phone contact with Abdoulaye to let him know my status, and getting e-mail access so I could get any last messages from Keith before heading to Djenne.  He let me know that Kodio was meeting with the national Director General of IER, and that they were touring the Mopti region this coming week, including a stop in Madiama.  We were there until early afternoon when we left for Djenne.   

The drive to Djenne went well.  When we got to the hotel in Djenne, there was a great reception by all the people who knew me from past visits.  Maybe they do that with everyone, but it sure feels good, and makes you feel welcome.  Toka came by after school.  I was glad to see him.  I had hoped he was still in school.  I hope he is able to go to the next level of schooling in Bamako.  Abdoulaye also was glad to see me.  Through Toka, we discussed the coming workshop agenda and how to resolve the issue of translation.  Toka had arranged for a good friend to help during the days he was in school.  I basically had two days planned in which I would do much of the teaching.  The other three days I planned to tap into the skills locally and empower more people to do this teaching.  I gave Abdoulaye the report from Nadif and a hard copy of my learning manual.  I asked if he could review the learning manual and offer any suggestions so it becomes a valuable guide for him. 

To most people’s surprise, it rained that night, a good soaking rain.  I remember the words of Diallo “please water” as we rode in the back of a pickup truck looking at the season’s last clouds during my last trip to Madiama.  Like all of us in the world, without water, there is no life.  This region of Mali was facing a serious food crisis as a result of uncooperative weather.  My current work in California is primarily focused on how we can retain more of the water, which falls as rain and snow.  The Madiama and the California projects are essentially grounded in helping people to respectfully learn from each other so they can effectively enhance their ecological conditions.  This change is not a technological or financial problem.  In California, for example, there is the knowledge in the few who are already doing these changes and there is an overabundance of money.  The problem is one of behavioral change.  My part of this work is to change human behavior and belief so it is consistent with the desired outcomes. 

We agreed to get started at 8 am.  I met Bamado who was to be my translator for most of the week.  He seemed like a genuine individual with good character and thought he would do a good job.  I have learned that knowing English, but not knowing the jargon and dynamics of the process, it is difficult for translators to be fully effective.  I do like translating directly to Bambara as 95% of the people can understand that language.  I lose the Filani people if the time isn’t set aside for this additional step.  As with Toka, Bamado was Filani so he was able to translate directly to them as well. 


October 11 (Friday) 

We got a good start, though first we stopped at CARE / Djenne to make the courtesy stop.  The Director was very positive about my work and seemed glad that I was there again.  He mentioned there are other communes that could use this work in the region and expressed a desire to talk about it later in the week.  As we left, we noticed we had a tire that was going flat quickly.  We took the truck to the “industrial part” of Djenne, as I refer to it.  It took quite some time to get the tire repair, which included having to find the person who does work on tires.   

We finally got on the road and reached Madiama around 10 am.  We stopped at the mayor’s office first.  The mayor asked if I remembered him from three years ago, the first workshop in Sevare’.  I said of course I did.  He was a very key participant in that first workshop as he represented the emerging concept of democracy that was unfolding in the villages.  The mayor had changed in those three years.  He had a confidence about him now that I hadn’t noticed three years ago.  It appeared it was a reflection of the respect he had earned from all those in the commune.  I had heard the relations between the traditional powers of village chiefs were very good with the democratic power of this elected official.  The process I introduced, primarily in the first workshop, was one of the elements that were given, leading to the successful transition to democracy.  The mayor asked me to tour his office.  It was a very basic, small adobe building with a desk and some chairs.  He was very proud of a map of Madiama village that was on his wall.  He explained how they were using this tool to help understand the needs of the villages.  It also seemed to spark questions as to why things were located where they were.  Unresolved conflict seemed to play a significant role in the development of the village.  Ideas were being generated as to how to resolve those conflicts to enhance the quality of life for the commune. 

Next, we continued on to the new schoolhouse at the edge of Madiama.  We passed the new building the Committee was constructing.  Everyone was very glad to see me again.  I felt the genuine touch of a deep friendship from those I had worked with in the past, and a respect from the new people.  We did an informal greeting circle outside.  I gathered people up for the morning workshop, feeling a need to get things moving, with so little time.  I asked when we needed to finish for the day, which was in roughly 90 minutes.  We had to rearrange the chairs in the room as they were set up in classroom / auditorium style.  Next, I attempted to lead a Grounding.  Wow, was that difficult!  It seemed they forgot how to get things started.  Bamado probably didn’t help the situation much as I could tell he was confused with how to get started.  I had hoped the group would remember and just do it.  They didn’t.  It took some time and a couple attempts to get the Grounding to happen successfully.  One comment during the Grounding was made how it had rained the night before and I must bring good luck to the villages. 

Later, on the drive home, Abdoulaye mentioned that many people had commented that it had been too long between my visits and they could have used a reminder with more frequency.  I tend to agree and will discuss some additional thoughts about this at the end of this report.  One challenge I always try to address during these workshops is that there is a tendency for the participants to talk to me, meaning they have to wait for the translation before the next person begins.  I generally encourage for them to just go and the translator will summarize for me at the end. 

The Greeting Circle went very easily, as it usually does.  They really seem to like that process and seem to be fine with the involvement of men and women.  Following the Greeting Circle, as I always do, I did an Adaptive Learning process to ask both the old and new participants how they felt about the process and what did they learn that will help them be successful.  They did the Adaptive Learning process really well, with each person expressing the value of the Greeting Circle to them personally. 

At this point, they wanted to show me a skit that demonstrated an interaction the Committee had earlier in the week with two villages to resolve the conflict about access to water points as the large herds come through in November.  They were very excited and proud of what they had done and were eager to role-play the experience.  In the skit, they started with a village chief sitting high in a chair (demonstrating his power).  First, two herders approached the village chief to ask for access to the water.  They paid the village chief for his cooperation, which everyone laughed about.  Next, the Bambara farmers came, quite upset about this “deal.”  The village chief asked the two parties to sit down together so they could resolve the issue.  He also invited the Committee to serve as conflict resolution facilitators.  The whole group demonstrated very good listening behaviors.   The complex issues were presented and addressed as they arose.  In the end, the whole group got up and shook hands demonstrating the “agreement” they had just come too.  The farmers were willing to allow safe passage of the animals if the herders were willing to stay within the predetermined area and ensure that only experienced herders would tend the livestock through the area.  The Committee was very proud of the work they had done as I could see in their looks for approval from me.  I was impressed. 

I finished the last twenty minutes of the workshop by showing the consensus process cards I had printed off at the U.S. Embassy (see Appendix A).  A card was made for each potential step in the consensus building / conflict resolution process.  I had several people stand, with each one holding a card (written in French with a subtitle in English).  I then proceeded to rearrange the people/cards by circumstances in which I may use those process steps.  This activity was interrupted by the need for people to prepare for the holy day, and I was asked to demonstrate this on Saturday morning, as it seemed to be an important element for their learning about how all of the workshops’ information came together. 

We closed the day with Adaptive Learning, and then people headed off for the holy day things they needed to do.  We drove back to Djenne and made arrangements for when to leave the next morning.  I spent the rest of the afternoon getting prepared for the next several days, resting up, and gaining access to Internet.  The hotel has acquired the ability to access Internet, if the phone line to Mopti is working, which is the BIG if.  Most times, the phone line wasn’t working.  I was later surprised to find out the cost to use Internet at Djenne was significantly less than the cost in Bamako. Maybe that’s because of reliability.


October 12 (Saturday) 

                I knew with as little as we were able to cover on Friday, I had to make the most of every minute on this day to get through the Managing Change workshop module.  We met at 8 am and promptly left for Madiama, getting a nice start.  After we crossed the ferry, as we crossed the causeway to Madiama, the driver slowed down and stopped.  He got out and looked.  There was another flat tire!  Well, so much for getting through the Managing Change workshop module as I had intended!  As we stood beside the road while the driver repaired the tire, I visited with Kadidia and Abdoulaye. Kadidia expressed that she could read English, but not speak it.  She was very interested in learning the process and asked how she could use the consensus building process to achieve a lifetime goal of hers, which was to “Clean Djenne” of all the plastic waste, then improve the sewers and do other beautification efforts.  Wow!  That was exciting.  She shared how she had a friend come to visit her from Norway, but the friend was so disturbed by the amount of plastic waste throughout and around the city, that she told Kadidia that she really needed to stay in a cleaner environment.  That experience had significant impact on Kadidia and got her looking for ways to clean the city. 

                Kadidia and I talked about how she could bring groups together and use the process to foster beliefs and behaviors with people to make the changes happen.  She could start with herself and use the process to figure out how she was going to make this thing happen. So, I led her through the process.  Next, I suggested she could bring the city leaders, agencies, merchants, and NGOs together to take action.  She could also start small and clean up a neighborhood, or several neighborhoods, which could grow together into a whole city.  I shared how in my experience, small successes were important places to begin because it helped build confidence.  This may be a better approach than trying to tackle the whole city at one time.  She was looking for ways to recycle the waste as well as reduce the volume.  So, we turned this “flat tire down time” into a very positive learning opportunity.  I believe Kadidia will reverse the problem of plastic in Djenne and Djenne will become “Clean Djenne.”  She reflected on how beautiful the adobe city was before plastic was there. 

                When we finally got to Madiama, we started with a Grounding, a Greeting Circle, and Adaptive Learning.  I decided I needed to significantly adjust my plan for the day and came up with a way to get the information out to the group.  I knew the alternative wasn’t as effective as actually modeling the process, but I was out of time.  This was the second best alternative.  At this point, I brought the consensus process cards back out.  I first demonstrated with the cards what was learned in the first workshop during the week at Sevare’ in November 1999.  I took them from start to finish with each process card step.  I also demonstrated some other adaptations such as the one-on-one conflict and the interviewing process.  I mentioned there is the core process and that process is modified based on the purpose of the process. 

Next, I introduced the group to the four arenas of conflict: 1) scarcity (rareté), 2) power (pouvoir), 3) change (changement), and 4) diversity (diversité).  I reviewed how the process was used in the two previous workshops addressing scarcity and power.  We could do the diversity workshop in a future trip to Madiama, perhaps hosting the workshop in Nerokoro to address the value of diversity for the commune.  Women’s issues could be another focus for this workshop.  In the current workshop, I said I would introduce them to the impacts of change on conflict.  I shared with them that change created a double-whammy.  There is the fear of the unknown and that is best illustrated in the phrase, “the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know.”  People are much better with what they have even if they don’t like all of it because they know what the negative elements are.  With new situations, the negatives are unknown and can be intensely imagined.  This can lead to people who furiously resist change because they are so overwhelmed with fear.  I also explained the second part of this double-whammy is the grief people feel for the loss of the old way.  Both of these situations are very real and present in any kind of change.  I also explained how there is a logical process for helping people move through the change process, which is illustrated in the Appendix B.  The logical process allows even the most resistant people to commit to the new direction.  There is also an emotional process side too. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross explains in her work the process of moving through denial (dénégation), anger (colère), bargaining (marchandage), depression (crise), and acceptance (accepter).  I like to add the extra step of adaptation (adapter).  The participants really seemed to like learning this information as I observed their attentive behavior. 

At this time, a violent rainstorm struck us.  The wind was intense and shook the tin roof of the new building.  This storm laid a lot of the crops down in a large area.  I was amazed as I drove through different parts of the area over the next several days that within about five miles the wind had blown the crops in different directions.  What a powerful storm!  After the twenty-minute storm, Abdoulaye let the group know what I had planned for the second set of workshops, including that we were going to go to three villages and they would facilitate the entire day.  I’d be available as a resource if needed.   They discussed how they would facilitate the second series of sessions.  My final activity for the day was to create a human graph plotting their perception of their progress in developing skills to resolve conflict.  I put the numbers 1 through 12+ across the blackboard, and then asked them to line up where they saw their skills five years ago.  The average was 1.5.  Next, I asked them where their skills were now, and they lined up at an average of 5, with a range from 4 to 6.  Finally, I asked where do they see themselves in five more years and they lined up at an average of 8.5.  Cisse asked me where I saw them today.  I said I would place them at an 8.  I told the group I was tremendously impressed by what I was observing in their behaviors and the issues they were resolving.  I am an authentic person and don’t say things I don’t mean.  I told them I hoped to someday have a group of people in my own community who were at the level that they were displaying to me.  We ended the day with adaptive learning.   


October 13 (Sunday) 

                I spent part of the day relaxing, going on a walk through Djenne with Toka and two women from the Peace Corps.  In the afternoon, I met with Abdoulaye.  First, he showed me some amazing work he was doing with developing village maps showing the structures, similar to what I saw in the mayor’s office.  Abdoulaye then shared how he was mapping associations within the villages, and people cooperating with activities like hunting, herding, farming, marketing, etc.  These association maps based on where people lived, brought out the question as to why some people were in small associations or parts of multiple and larger associations.  He found the answer had to do mostly with unresolved conflicts.  He thought about how strategically resolving one conflict at a time, the power of communities could emerge.  I was very impressed with his thinking and felt he was really on to something.  I also thought about how nice a tool like GIS could help him, even though he was doing fine with his paper sketches.  I wondered if GIS could be brought in through the NASA project or in some other way, because this was significant thinking. 

Next, we discussed the plans for the day in Nerokoro.  He said the Committee came up with the idea of sharing the skit in Nerokoro to illustrate the opportunities to incorporate the less powerful voices through this process and how the leadership of the Committee can help.  I agreed that was a good plan.  He said that the Director General of IER was also scheduled to be in Madiama on Monday afternoon, so they all agreed to meet him after a morning session in Nerokoro.  We talked about the plans for Siragourou and Torokoro.  I used the consensus process cards to illustrate a potential way to design the two days.  He liked that approach and I think he further understood the consensus building process.  Unfortunately, Abdoulaye who has shown some of the greatest leadership outside of Madiama, did not have the benefit of the first workshop which laid the foundation for this process.  So, he is playing catch up.  I suggested the participants take a field trip to the pasture under planning.  I also discussed the learning manual and my need to have input from him so I can make this a valuable document for him.  Finally, I copied my past trip reports, learning manual, and other valuable notes to Abdoulaye’s & Kadidia’s computer.  We had a good visit and covered a lot of information.   


October 14 (Monday) 

                We got a good start to Nerokoro, picking up the agency personnel in Madiama.  There would be needs to shuttle people that day so I would be dropped off and we would wait for the others to come.  Toka was with me to translate this day, as he doesn’t have school on Sunday and Monday.  I deliberately chose Nerokoro for the first village to extend the work to during this trip.  Nerekoro is the home of the Peul (the herders) and the site of the leadership of the herders association in Madiama, which is highly influential among transhumant herders.  For the pasture management to work, it will necessarily involve these herders and their leadership.  Indirectly or directly, they are part of the solution in every other village.  The Peul also seem to have less power in the region, so this first workshop made a statement about sharing power.  The SANREM project almost had a holistic pasture management site in Nerekoro but a conflict over access to land between Madiama village and Nerekoro village decided the issue.  They chose not to address the issue and consequently could not provide sufficient land for the project. 

People in Nerokoro were very welcoming of us.  The village chief was very pleased to have this meeting in their community.  The meeting place was all setup for the workshop.  I went with the village chief and others to the meeting place, an adobe building in the center of the village.  While I was sitting there waiting for the others to arrive, I got a severe illness from what I assumed was a bacteria I had eaten.  People were very worried about me so they promptly got the truck to send me back to Djenne and possibly Bamako.  I encouraged them to continue with the plans for the day and that I would be fine.  They said they would continue but were obviously very worried about me.  I had an antibiotic in my pack in the truck so I took that and laid down for the trip to Djenne.  Toka and Ashook thought I should go to the hospital, but I was feeling much better and thought if I could rest for the day, I’d be okay.  I asked to be taken to the hotel and if Toka would check on me in a couple hours to make sure I was okay.  The pain in my stomach passed fairly quickly as I rested.  By evening, I was able to have something to eat.  I worked at drinking fluids all day. 

Abdoulaye and Kadidia checked in with me to make sure I was all right.  They said they were really worried as were the people in Madiama commune.  I noticed I hadn’t had any fear about being taken care of.  I felt that this illness would pass fairly quickly, at least I hoped it would.  Abdoulaye described the day’s activities for me.  He said they did the skit in Nerokoro and the people learned a lot from it.  He said the village chief said he endorsed the work of the Committee. 

The meeting with the Director General from IER in Bamako also went very well, though the Director General arrived late in the afternoon.  After a tour, the Director General told the Committee that this commune reflected the most hope of any commune he had visited throughout Mali. He hopes to renew this project with a second phase.  This is an important element for the SANREM West Africa leadership to follow-up.  This is significant! 


October 15 (Tuesday) 

                After a good day and night’s rest, I felt strong enough to go back out for another day.  Abdoulaye had suggested staying back and resting, or only going for part of a day.  I felt 80% back to normal and I trusted the team to facilitate a successful workshop, so I knew my energies wouldn’t be too drained, so I chose to go at the beginning of the day.  If I didn’t feel well, Ashook could always bring me back.  When I got to Siragourou, the Committee members were very glad to see me.  They shared how they worried about me all night and not being able to sleep well.  They were glad I was there that morning so they knew I would be okay.  I really appreciated those words and behaviors of concern. 

                The Committee started with a Grounding.  Just like Nerokoro, a very nice cross-section of village leaders from Siragourou were present at the meeting, which included a representative for the village chief, leading farmers and other village leaders.  Future village leaders, teenagers, were present and the usual entourage of children also surrounded the meeting place, which was under a big tree in the middle of the village.  A guest was also present from a neighboring commune because he had heard about the positive impact of this work and wanted to learn first hand, and asked for it to be brought to his commune.  Next, the Committee led the Greeting Circle, which seems to really open people up and feel very welcome and connected.  The Committee is also good at doing Adaptive Learning after doing the Greeting Circle. 

                The Committee next facilitated the skit.  This skit was different than the one I observed in Madiama.  It turned out that they designed the skit to address difficult conflicts for Siragourou.  The Committee spent a lot of clever thought in developing the skit including using the local Committee representative to act the part of the Committee.  During the adaptive learning, people expressed an excitement and hope for seeing ways to overcome real conflicts.  The village chief representative said he was “in” and wanted to be part of this movement.  The Committee decided to discuss the pasture plan rather than use the consensus building process.  There was a good, open question/answer period.  The Committee members acted as teachers of holistic management, sharing lessons they had learned over the few years of this project and things they saw on trips to Tchad. One of the points that came out of the discussion was that several community members weren’t following the plan because they didn’t understand the reason it was developed.  They said now they would be willing to support the plan.  During the final adaptive learning, the structure of the committee was discussed and how important the local Committee was to the bigger effort.  It was also noted about the importance of having women represented on the local Committee, like what was modeled by the commune Committee.  The local group representatives said they now saw the value in having a diverse group of people and would make those changes to the structure.  The day ended with an honoring.  This was an emotionally moving day. 

Following lunch, I toured the field trials.  We first stopped at a fertilizer trial which I wasn’t that excited about because of the testing I have done using the holistic management model for these communities.  Next, we toured the field trials where livestock were placed on the field for 2, 5, and 10 days before planting and a control with no livestock.  These trials I get excited about!  They are located near the Committee’s new building in Madiama so they can access them as educational opportunities.  The difference in the impacts from livestock on cropland versus no livestock is amazing!  The difference is easily visible to the human eye and should be a good means of showing the value to other farmers and herders.  Even in this drought year, the difference is phenomenal.  What I also found very interesting is that the field trials treated two growing seasons ago still showed significant differences.  The first season trials were done with cattle. This year’s trials in a separate location were done with goats, and showed similar results as the cattle.  This is a very significant finding from this project and could have major consequences with food production and the value of animals in crop production, hence creating an opportunity where a traditional conflict is turned into a significant opportunity.  Effort needs to be focused on how to spread these findings! 

We returned to Djenne.  I was invited to dinner that evening with the Director of CARE / Djenne, other staff members including Abdoulaye and Kadidia, and some other guests working with rice production in the country. 


October 16 (Wednesday) 

                We checked out of our rooms this morning as we were going to the workshop in Torokoro, then drive to Sevare’ to get gas for the return trip back to Bamako on Thursday.  We got another good start.  I was now feeling 90% back to normal.  We picked up the government agency crew from Madiama as they were going to Mopti to meet with the General Director on Thursday.  We arrived at Torokoro.  School chairs were set up in a rough circle under a big tree on the edge of the village.  These school chairs have some limitations for good process because they are cumbersome, but it is what they have available.  The village chief and several of his village leaders were present including the spiritual chief and the oldest man alive in the commune.  This was another large group.  They were also glad to have the workshop held in their village, expressing a feeling of usually having to make the greatest sacrifice to attend meetings because of the long distance to Madiama, the commune seat.  Abdoulaye videotaped the meeting, as the Committee was suggesting getting the skit placed on the national radio and television stations. 

                This time, certain individuals who introduced others led the Grounding, rather than letting each person speak in turn.  This concerns me and I will comment on it below.  I felt a little awkward with the village chief.  He seemed to not be as welcoming and more reluctant than in all the other villages.  I was honored by the Committee President when he introduced me to the village chief as an American who brought the message that the answers to their problems lie within their communities and that they were, indeed, solving their own problems.  The Committee did the Greeting Circle, which seemed to loosen people up, as it usually does.  They did the Adaptive Learning next and this time made sure each person had a chance to speak.  Next, they did another skit, modified again to address a different situation, which was relevant to this village.  The local Committee representative represented the Committee again in the modeling of how to successfully resolve their conflicts.  When this skit was over, they did another Adaptive Learning.  People said they liked the approach demonstrated and they learned new ways to resolve old issues. 

As in Siragourou, the discussion of the pasture plan led to recognition that the local people did not understand why the plan was designed and vowed to support the field trial in the future.  Again, this was done through a discussion.  The Committee did an outstanding job of teaching grazing concepts to the local community members.  I would have liked to see what using the basic consensus building questions would do for the situation with the pasture plans.  The Committee led a final Adaptive Learning, which is an impressive step because they are placing an importance on learning from situations, and adapting.  We ended the day with honoring.  After lunch, the government agency people from Madiama and I went to Sevare’.


October 17 (Thursday) 

Ashook and I got an early start from Sevare’.  Just as we were leaving the hotel, the Director General of IER came up to me and introduced himself out by our truck.  I appreciated him making the effort to meet me.  We had a good drive to Bamako, listening to Malian music most of the way with occasional radio broadcasts in French.  Ashook took me to the Le Loft Hotel so I could get a little rest before my flight.


October 17-18 (Thursday & Friday) 

Ashook picked me up for my late night flight.  The airport tax was raised to 14,000 CFA, and Air France had been kind enough to let me know about this before I got to the airport so it wasn’t an issue.  I got on the airplane with no difficulties.  My flight to Sacramento went well.  It is always nice to be home, yet I value the gifts I gain from Africa.  I feel I always leave richer than when I came.



A few additional observations from my trip: I continue to be amazed with the how the participants in this project are developing as leaders and using the skills they are learning to do amazing things.  They have developed a confidence that I didn’t see when I first met them.  I see signs of affection between them such as holding hands and laying on each other on mats as they facilitate workshops.  They have become good friends and their relationships are affecting the villages they represent.  Some Committee members haven’t appeared fully supported back in their villages as evidenced by comments they have made about trying to get things going and not being able to get action.  However, the visits to the villages most likely built credibility with various Committee members. 

Several Committee members are demonstrating significant leadership qualities.  Some have become the designated leaders for conflict resolution.  Issa is taking a great leadership role with the Committee.  Cisse from Nerokoro has developed a respected role representing the herding community.  I mention the confidence I felt in the Mayor.  The Committee members representing the various villages demonstrate courage to be leaders in their communities through their association with the Committee.  The government agency people and the NGO representatives are also demonstrating admirable leadership qualities.  The women have done an effective job at representing their constituents within the Committee.



There are a few challenges or concerns that I have.  They may be significant issues or needless worries because they are my views based in a point in time and not on continual observations.  Also, there is an importance in adapting processes to fit one’s own cultural setting.  I can see a lot of adopting of ideas I have shared with them so my concerns are based more on the sense of not losing elements of the process that I feel are crucial for overall success in conflict resolution and consensus building. 

The first concern I have is that in some of the workshops I observed, there were times when people where not each speaking for themselves and investing their “voice” into the process.  Consensus is based on 100% agreement to do the right thing.  If one person is reluctant to participate and holds back their view, and it is not consistent with the outcome, then consensus is not reached. 

           The next concern is related to the first in which people are speaking for someone else.  It’s dangerous to assume that one person can speak for another, unless this designation has been agreed upon prior to the occasion.  I observed this occurring in a couple circumstances. 

A big concern I have is about the facilitators not using the worst / best / possibility process.  From my experience, the human mind seems to work with this process flow.  The lack of commitment to the pasture plans in the two villages could be related to a lack of involvement in expressing their fears and concerns, developing a best possible vision, and acknowledging the possibility that both situations could exist in the future. 

The length of timing between workshops continues to puzzle me.  I want not to be misunderstood as to what I am suggesting here because I am very pleased with the development of this community at this point in time.  It is amazing to me.  However, I wonder about different scenarios such as a more frequent training period initially.  These workshops are done on a three-month interval in the United States with a high level of success.  What would have happened if this community had gotten this kind of interval?  Or even six-months between sessions?  I wonder if some process steps not being utilized because they are not reinforced when so much time elapses between sessions.   I realize cost is an issue. 

Finally, I need to say a word about the learning manual and its use.  I see this as a guide for those who are familiar with the process rather than a replacement for the process.  There are many subtle things demonstrated in the workshop through behaviors that are not written about in the manual nor would be understood if written about in great depth. 

A final possibility I feel bears merit is to build a team within the country, such as with CARE/Mali.  This core team could then deliver regular training and support to multiple communities throughout the country, and be a support team internally.  I suspect there are other potential partners, i.e., based on the comments I heard were said from the Director General of IER.  What would it take for us to develop this idea?  This could be a more economical way to build capacity within the country.



In conclusion, I leave this trip to Mali with great enthusiasm and hope for the opportunities the Madiama commune is exploring and developing.  There is tremendous potential to expand this work.  I have difficulty where people do not realize the progress that is being made.  What are the other opportunities that are making these kinds of impacts?  I am amazed at what is occurring and I feel an important next step is to develop strategies that will accelerate these kind of changes on a continually larger scale.


Appendix A  

Consensus Process Cards  

                A card was made for each potential step in the consensus building / conflict resolution process.  I had several people stand, with each one holding a card.  I then proceeded to rearrange the people/cards by circumstances in which I may use those process steps.  Here are the steps found on each card (in French and English):

 Connaissance de base – Grounding

Circle des salutations – Greeting Circle

Ressentir / éprouver – Feel / learn

Rôle des secretaire et facilitateur – Roles of the recorder & facilitator  

Pire, meilleure, eventualité – Worst, best, possibility

La situation – The Situation 

La pire issue – Worst Possible Outcomes 

 La meilleure issue – Best Possible Outcomes

Croissance et comportement – Beliefs & behaviors 

Stratégies et actions – Strategies & actions 

Fermature émotionnelle – Closure 

Les constats collectives – Collective statements 

Consensus – Consensus 

Apercu – Insights 

Fermature émotionnelle – Closure


Appendix B 

MANAGING CHANGE process questions 

1.     The Present Situation:  A Panel 

What is the present situation in the villages and how do you feel about it?

2.     The Present Situation:  The Small Group 

What did you hear or learn from the panel?
What is your view of the situation?
How do you feel about it?

·        Insight:  Acknowledging The Change 

3.     The Reasons For Not Changing: 

What are all the reasons the community members will give for not changing the present situation in the villages?

4.     The Worst Possible Outcomes Of Change: 

What are the worst possible outcomes of not changing the situation in the villages? (External)
What are the worst possible outcomes of unneeded change?

5.     The Evidence That Change Is Expected Or Needed? 

·        Insight:  A Change Spectrum (Logical) 

What is the evidence that transformational change is needed, or expected in the villages?  How do you feel about it?

6.     The Best Possible Outcomes: 

·        Insight:  The Change Process (Emotional) 

Denial – Disbelief


Bargaining                  Out of Control

Depression                  Worst Possible Outcomes



What will be the evidence that we have fostered transformational change?

7.     Exploring New And Adaptive Beliefs And Behaviors: 

·         What management behaviors and beliefs are not adaptive and need to be set aside?

·         What new management behaviors and beliefs must be “value added” to adapt to the new situation? 

8.     The Conditions Under Which We Will Respond To The Change:

Is there a need for transformational change?
What are the conditions under which you are willing to respond?