Above: Fisherman in the Niger river near Bamako. Photo credit: Lars Heemskerk.
When sharing with people that I will shortly be moving to Mali, a very common reaction is: ‘…ahh Bali’. Well, no… this move is not a reinforcement of our hub in Indonesia. We are at the point of opening another spot in West Africa that will function as part of our existing hub in Burkina Faso. In the past two years of expanding our work in the West African region, we really got into a flow.

When I joined the West African team of Jeroen and Emeline, Akvo was active in Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana through our participation in two Dutch consortia (Connect4Change and Dutch WASH Alliance) and a new contract had just been signed with the Ministry of Water in Benin to start a pilot to collect data with Akvo FLOW.

Today our team is active in about ten countries and we are very happy to have doubled in size recently; Giel joined us a year ago, and Abdoulaye, Frédéric and Lars now strengthen our team and bring in different capabilities. Although it would have been very nice to join our colleagues in Ouagadougou, as a team we decided to explore ‘new’, and already known grounds in Bamako. New because Akvo has no office yet there, and there are many opportunities to explore. Known, because we’ve already undertaken several activities in Bamako and recorded some nice results. And also personally known to me as I spent six months in Bamako in 2007.
Above: my interview with a Malian news station explaining and demonstrating Akvo FLOW. Footage courtesy of ORTM. (In French.)
In particular the experiences we acquired last year in Mali working with the Ministry of Water (Direction Nationale de l’Hydraulique (DNH)), UNICEF and SNV, and the challenging ideas that grew out of this pilot to map all water points in the country, convinced us that a lot of beautiful things can happen when Akvo people are based nearby and work closely with organisations to build better transparency here.

Now the time has come to leave the Netherlands and put ourselves out of our comfort zone again…I am looking forward to fresh challenges and unexpected happenings, because: there’s never a dull moment in West Africa!

Dagmar Verbeek is an Akvo project manager in West Africa.