Dagmar Mali interview
Above: Dagmar Verbeek takes local news station ORTM through a demonstration and explanation of Akvo FLOW. Photo credit: Giel Hendriks.

Together with Dagmar Verbeek & Valentin Iogo, I recently gave an Akvo FLOW training in Bamako to all the different organizations active for the WASH Alliance in Mali: WaterAid, CECEP, HELVETAS, ALPHALOG, Wetlands International, AED, ARAFD, CAEB, GRAT and ICCO.

The Dutch WASH Alliance is a collective of NGO’s that, by combining its strength and collective capacity, wants to improve the availability of drinking water and sanitation facilities. They work in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, Uganda and, of course, Mali.

It was my first time in Mali and I was amazed by the warm and friendly welcome that we received. At the start of the Akvo FLOW course, we even had the attention of the national Malian television (ORTM). Dagmar gave an interview about the training and explained Akvo FLOW, giving an excellent demo of FLOW.

Footage courtesy of ORTM.

The participants were a bit wary of what to expect of Akvo FLOW. But as soon as we started to gather data with the smartphones, they were more engaged and started having fun. Seeing the self-collected data, especially their geolocation and the pictures, made the participants realize in a very natural way the possibilities Akvo FLOW has to offer them.

WASH alliance Mali

Above: During a field exercise, participants use their smartphones to collect data by questioning the chief of the village. Photo credit: Giel Hendriks.

During the course I noticed that there was a lot of disagreement about the format and the questions of the surveys among the participants. This is an aspect that we need to take into account for future Akvo FLOW training workshops. Especially working with a collective of different organizations, agreement about the surveys being used is a key element. Perhaps providing partners with more assistance in creating quality surveys could be an extra service from Akvo.

WASH alliance Mali 2

Above: Telly Allasseini and Banzoumana Coulibaly work with the collected data on the Akvo FLOW dashboard. Photo credit: Giel Hendriks.

Besides that, there was a significant difference between the young and slightly older participants when adopting the skills for using the application on the smartphone. This is something to consider when giving Akvo FLOW training – some participants are less used to smartphones than we expect them to be.

All in all the participants, and we as trainers, had a wonderful time during the training. I would like to thank Bourama Traore, coordinator of the WASH Alliance in Mali, for taking such good care of us and the participants and making us feel welcome. I would also like to thank Gahoussou Traore for taking care of the conference room and making sure everybody was well provided with food and drinks during the course.

WASH alliance Mali 3

Above: WASH Alliance participants looking forward to the first Akvo FLOW data collection in Mali. Photo credit: employee of the CAEB Bamako.

Giel Hendriks is a project officer for Akvo’s West Africa hub as part of the YEP Water programme. He is based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso.