Dogon Country, Mali

Providing alternative income opportunities and supporting conservation in Mali's Dogon Country

  • Client: USAID-Mali
  • Partners: GIZ, Cultural Mission of Bandiagara (MCB), SNV Office Malien du Tourisme et de l'Hotelliere (Ministry of Tourism, OMATHO)
  • Project Duration: March 2008 – June 2012

Project Description 

The Dogon Country region of Mali is nestled near the edge of the Sahara Desert in Africa’s Sahel and stretches the length of the Bandiagara escarpment. It possesses stunning natural beauty and cultural significance; the area, however, also plays host to a population whose economic growth is stunted due to diminishing access to agricultural land and water because of desertification. The result is increased pressure on the economic viability of the Dogon people, who are at risk of losing their cultural heritage and ancestral lands because of environmental degradation that simultaneously affects the biodiversity of this unique region. Through the USAID-funded Global Sustainable Tourism Alliance, Solimar helped to diversify the economy of the Dogon people through sustainable tourism by building awareness of Dogon Country as a tourist destination and promoting its many tourism assets while enhancing the capacity of local tourism businesses to service international tourism markets. This has helped to provide the Dogon people with alternative sources of income to their traditional agricultural activities and has allowed them to further develop tourism assets and enterprises on their own for future gains. By providing this alternative livelihood, some of the environmental pressures have been alleviated that are associated with a dominantly agrarian society.

Major Activities

  • Building capacity: developed tourism training programs tailored to local needs and capacity. Programs made heavy use of pictures and role-playing educational methods as many local tourism practitioners have low levels of literacy.
  • Developing online tools: created a website that showcases the region’s tourism attractions as well as the communities and their culture. Created and utilized social media accounts to help increase awareness of the region (country), the people and their culture.
  • Incentivizing the Travel Trade: increased awareness of the region’s tourism attractions to a wider audience, including international tourism markets, through the use of online tools and outreach to and coordination with media outlets.

Results

  • Over 200 tourism professionals (accommodation managers, guides, tour operators, etc.) trained in tourism management, customer service, hygiene, and sustainable tourism operations.
  • A training curriculum tailored to the local needs for local tourism partners to be able to implement sustainable tourism initiatives beyond the program.
  • Pays Dogon destination website in French and English that highlights the tourism attractions, activities, and businesses in the region as well as the flora and fauna.
  • Greater awareness of Pays Dogon as a tourism destination by increasing media coverage (throughout the project, the destination has been written about in multiple print and online media outlets as well as highlighted on French TV, France 24 radio, RFI and on local TV ORTM.
  • New links between local tour operators and international tour operators and markets to enhance tourism sales.
  • One-on-one technical assistance to businesses and guides when requested to enhance their businesses and improve their management ability.

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