Responsible Travel

Dogon country has become one of the premiere tourist destinations of Mali and the whole of West Africa. Below is information that will help you have enjoyable time while also respecting your hosts and the environment. While tourism is an important source of income for villagers, it still poses some problems that can be avoided through traveler’s education.

  • Some children become beggars and some young people leave school to become guides without any training, hence the importance of adapting appropriate behavior while visiting. Tourism can promote truancy among children, who will leave school and turn into beggars. Do not succumb to the urge to give small gifts to children, money, candy, pens, etc. These actions encourage children to panhandle and to desert school.
  • Visitors are often sought for medical care (medication for headaches, stomach pain, but also for nasty infected wounds). Only an experienced doctor can provide a diagnosis and give medical advice. It is important to abstain from any distribution of medicines. A Tylenol will lower a fever but it may also delay the visit to the clinic of a sick person or child. This can have tragic consequences.
  • In order to avoid fuelling frustration of the local people, be discreet when handling money. It is recommended not to make a show of digging around in your wallet or pocket for money, as this is considered rude among some Africans. Do not hesitate to seek a private place to gather your monies, and return to the vendor to complete your transaction.
  • A trip goes better if you read documents on culture, history and beliefs of the region, in advance of your visit. This will help you interpret what you are seeing as well as give you pre-warning of social and cultural taboos to avoid. Do not forget to bargain with humor and patience, and to not lose one’s temper. A smile is always better than an aggressive tone.
  • Do not buy sacred objects or original artifacts. Instead, opt for copies made especially for tourists. Bring garbage bags for all your waste and do not expect to discard waste until you are back in town. Before leaving, try to minimize packaging and disposable items. Leave space in your bags to carry your disposable items. Please keep with you hazardous waste such as batteries and other materials that can be recycled or destroyed in Dogon country. Water is a precious resource in Dogon country. Please do not waste it and not to pollute. Use biodegradable products (soaps, detergents, etc.) Electricity is also a luxury in Dogon country, please remember to turn off electrical appliances and lights in a room when you leave. Also, avoid the use of air conditioning as much as possible.

Knowing a few words of the local language is a sure way to endear yourself to locals. Listed below are the key phrases essential to a successful first contact experience:

  • Dogon de Yendouma > English
  • “Eu ouaa! ou séo?” > “Hi! How are you?”
  • “Séo” > Literally : “it goes” or, “well”
  • “Guinni?” > “And your family?”
  • “Séo” > “They are well”
  • “Ounoum Séo” > “And the children?”
  • “Séo > “Well”
  • “Ôôô” > “Good!”
  • “E ou séo?” > The inverse: “And how are you?”

This text contains excerpts from a charter written by Yannick Salaun, L’Harmattan Solidaire.