U.S. Embassy’s partner i4Africa implemented the Festival Alafia 2019 in Dangha, Timbuktu, from February 12-14. This event was organized with the mentoring of i4Africa by a consortium of young volunteers who built the agenda of the festival around the need for social cohesion and to heal the growing divisions in their community. Through this experience, young people learned to produce inclusive, community-focused celebrations and activities to increase cooperation and peaceful coexistence in their towns and outlying areas.
During the three-day celebration, the volunteer-organized activities included boys and girls track and field, pirogue races, soccer matches, horse racing and riding, theatre sketches, concerts and a conference debate on restoring solidarity and the spirit of cooperation to restore a sense of community.
One sub-theme of the meeting was on the importance of reviving community work collectives, a practice which has been deteriorating since 2012, and has decayed even further due to political division and disputes over land use. In isolated communities where government services are limited, this type of social cohesion is crucial to community survival. Many people in Dangha lost their homes due to flooding this year, and for many, work collectives are the only chance of re-building their houses and restoring normalcy to their lives.
This festival was important because Tamasheq, Bozo, Songhai, and Peul communities came together to share in each other’s rich cultural heritage, building social cohesion and having opportunities to dialogue about the problems they share, and can only solve together. This event was part of a month-long tour through the region of Timbuktu.