SOAS University of London

Resilience in West African Frontier Communities


The research project is designed to have a significant impact on both frontier communities in West Africa and NGOs development work and outcomes in the region. Our main impact actions are the development of a mobile app, a website in collaboration with the Malian NGO Donkosira, and a toolkit including a 20-min video on training for local knowledge data collection. The project builds on the existing Malian NGO's app and website which aims at preserving cultural heritage through connecting communities and generations with technology. Our project will record historical and contemporary knowledge and cultural practices which allow Frontier communities to construct resilience strategies in times of crisis and are thus beneficial for development. The project will be conducted with 10 stakeholders of from 5 villages (2 in Casamance, 2 in Mali and 1 in Guinea). 

We will organise workshops to first train the stakeholders in data collection, video practice, media, website and mobile app use. This will directly impact their own knowledge and skills as they will then be able to connect and exchange knowledge rapidly across borders, creating an international network of local knowledge which they can in turn use not only to reinforce community development efforts but to further train people. The direct involvement of the stakeholders with local, national and international media will tremendously enhance the visibility and effective dissemination of such community-based knowledge production towards local development. It will raise the profile of those communities and accelerate the work of the local NGO Donkosira.

During previous fieldwork, the populations in the selected villages have expressed on repeated occasions the demand to produce material on their own culture so that they can share it with visitors but also with school children, hence the idea of both building on an already existing successful mobile app and conceiving a toolkit ncluding a short video. 

The project will also be directly relevant to NGOs and local authorities in Mali, Guinea and Casamance as they often struggle to navigate the complex social and economic landscape characteristic of Frontier societies, notably their local and regional mobility patterns and their multilingualism flexibly regulating land rights, land stewardship, political representation, continual renegotiation social relations (including gender relations) and the settling of incomers. The project will engage stakeholders, local NGOs and authorities to contribute to community-centred and locally informed development. Their access to this community-based knowledge and its use in their development work will be facilitated by the app and the website, as well as the toolkit and the 20-min video. We will measure the impact of the production of this knowledge material/data by monitoring the use of them by the local populations, including schools, and by the local NGOs and authorities.

If proven successful, the project research team might consider expanding the experience beyond these five villages in a subsequent project in collaboration with Donkosira.