Since May 2011, the 10 members of the Bandiagara Coura Action Group have been hard at work making their hill-side community healthier. Bandiagara Coura is named after the famous Dogon escarpment, and its steep hills and rock-homes evoke Mali's famous tourist destination. Given the difficulty residents have accessing water, electricity, roads and schools, it is also one the most underprivileged parts of the Sikoro neighborhood.
After an intensive training on community activism by Mali Health’s Mobilization Coordinator Dramane Diarra, the Action Group members went to work developing programs to improve the health and well-being of their neighbors. One of their first activities was to conduct a census of the population of Bandiagara Coura. The members of the Action Group realized that without a clear picture of who resided in the neighborhood, and the number of people living there, they would be unable to plan and execute activities. The Action Group surveyed over 1200 families living in Bandiagara Coura and gathered valuable information about the population (such as the fact that certain households essentially as dormitories for people who work in downtown Bamako) and community relations (for example, some residents have a negative view of the sector chief, dating to the time when the land was divided). All of this information will allow the group to effectively plan and implement activities.
Following the census, the Action Group began work on their first community improvement program: paving the three main roads in Bandiagara Coura. Ama, the Action Group president said, "Paving the roads will make it easier to leave Bandiagara Coura. Today, if someone falls ill, they have to climb down the hill, or someone has to carry them down the hill, to the main road before they can find a car or bus, as these vehicles cannot drive up the hill.” In addition to reducing access to health care, the poor road quality means that women and children have limited access to piped water, which is only located in the valley. More than 5 years ago, the sector chief had directed an activity to pave some of the roads, but others remain unfinished. In order to improve access between Bandiagara Coura and the rest of the neighborhood, the Action Group plans to pave 3 roads. In order to make these roads usable for motor vehicles, they have to do everything from dynamiting rock to make the road wider, building retaining walls, and filling in sunken land.
To achieve their goal, the Action Group has solicited donations from community members to pay for cement and sand, and youth have contributed labor to the project. This is an ongoing project, but the start has been very fruitful and close to 70% of Action for Health families have participated in the project. The sector chief says: "It has been a dream of mine to see public transport in Bandiagara Coura, and we need good roads for this to become a reality." (Bamia, chef de secteur).