Shooting Diary

Phase 3: Africa

Mali is located in West Africa, and it is one of the poorest countries on Earth. Why are we shooting here, almost at the “end of the world”?

Energy Autonomy as a topic is about much more than just modern technology and the economical policies of the industrial world. The complete range of the term can only be fully understood in relation to the question of global justice: Energy must be made available for all human beings on this planet. This is only possible in a decentralised manner, via a number of methods for energy production that take into account the local situation – especially in the so-called “Third World”, where infrastructure for a centralised energy system does not exist.

The Mali Folkecenter, directed by Ibrahim Togola, is doing crucial pioneering work here. The basic idea is to provide people in rural areas of Africa with access to energy via small solar power stations. The energy produced in this decentralised way is cheap and clean. What is more, it is an important factor in the fight against poverty, inequality, and war: the power stations tremendously improve the living conditions of the people, but are small enough that they will never be the object of any major conflict.

Tabago is an African Solar Village. It is supplied with energy from photovoltaics stations built by the Folkecenter, allowing for instance to light a maternal ward in the local hospital – this was only possible with torches beforehand. The center also offers a training programme for farmers, and it has recently launched a micro-credit system to allow women to become involved in trading.

After an adventurous three-hour-drive across 5km of bumpy roads, we reach the village Gesado, where the Mali Folkecenter is growing Jatropha, an energy plant which is of high interest even for large-scale business. Here, however, the fruit are used for local energy production. The extreme condition of the road shows that decentralised renewable energies can be employed virtually anywhere, even in the backyard of Africa.

After a very successful shooting session in Mali, which was spontaneously prolonged by two days, the whole crew is exhausted; the strains of almost twenty days on the road are clearly visible. The upcoming resting phase is short, but welcomed by all of us. On Saturday, we will move out again – unfortunately without Nelli Hartung, who has fallen sick – this time to Bangladesh.