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Sustainable travel in day to day Africa

How easy it is, sitting at your desk in The Netherlands, to think of all the things you are going to do differently, how you want to do it and why. Thoughts and ideas are being fed by western standards, ideals, views, standards, values and possibilities. How different is day-to-day practice in countries like Mali and where do you find the balance between what you want and what is possible. We gladly share some of our considerations with you.

Take a simple issue as waste: household refuse, garden refuse and often even paper are collected door-to-door. There are places to hand in glass, plastics, clothes, chemical residues and empty batteries.
The processing of waste in Mali is almost virgin territory. Not surprising if you do realize that not so long ago they only had organic waste. Nowadays western and (mostly inferior) Chinese products find their way to Mali. Huge numbers of plastic bags, packages, empty bottles, products and appliances that were granted only a short life and old batteries lie scattered all over the place.  

How do you deal with these facts, being a conscious company? We cannot prevent that Papillon Reizen’s activities have an impact on the Malian environment. We can make sure that the impact is minimized. We therefore strive to contribute to the mountain of waste as little as possible. For instance we prefer reusable glass bottles over plastic bottles and cans. If possible we purify local water to restrict the number of empty plastic bottles and bags. We prefer fresh local fruits and vegetables over canned food. We bring our own reusable shopping bags, even when it makes the locals laugh. We avoid the use of sprays, limit the use of batteries and prefer natural products.
And if we do have waste that we’d rather not leave to the Malian waste processors, we will personally carry it abroad. For the future our hopes are based on the rise of conscious of the Malian government and the locals.

Use people as pack mules and have them climb or descend the Dogon Country cliffs? You’d rather not think about it? Or maybe you should? Can we find the balance between western and Malian standards and values?
Lots of considerations have been made and finally – also based on our own experiences – we have consciously chosen to make our journeys through the Dogon with porters.
The risk factor when carrying your own luggage, the fact that we travel with extra baggage to set up our own tent camp at villages without accommodations and the simple fact that a porter – after a day’s work – goes home with enough money to feed his entire family have done it.
We attach great value to fairly paying our porters for their services. We keep an eye on the kilos per porter and only work with adult porters.

mineral water versus purified water
Who leaves the beaten (tourist) paths, ends up in places where drinking-water is not monitored. In those case, like in several villages in Dogon Country and the desert we have the choice between carrying in water, purify it on the spot or a combination of both.
Where possible we carry in enough water. In the Dogon, where we use porters, we limit carrying in bottles of mineral water and jerrycans of drinking-water. If necessary we will fill up our water supplies by purifying local water.
In case we use bottled mineral water, the empty bottles will be given to the locals. It’s hard to know that one day the plastic will end up somewhere in the environment, and it is cold comfort that the locals are extremely happy with the bottles. They will reuse them long time, which has a positive effect on the number of plastic bags used for fluids such as oil and milk.

transport and CO2-emission
Who lives, contributes to the CO2-emission. Who travels, inevitably contributes more. Papillon Reizen is thoroughly aware of this fact and compensates the CO2-emission of its employees flights.
In Mali we prefer to travel with te lowest possible impact on the environment: we walk, take a bicycle, public transport and shared taxis for instance. In some cases we cannot evade traveling by four-wheel drives. If so we simply enjoy the travel experience.

Togo - fishermen at the beach