Hello, I’d like to update you on a recent development in Spirit of America’s efforts to support security and conservation in the Gourma region of Mali along with our US Army and US Embassy Bamako partners. We first told you about these efforts here. On June 15, 2016, the US Embassy in Bamako hosted an event where SoA donated equipment to the Gardes Forestiers (Rangers) that are tasked with protecting Mali’s endangered desert elephant herd and the communities within the herd’s grazing area. These Rangers form a critical link in the human security chain and connect the Malian military with local communities. Through the course of their patrols, the Rangers have developed relationships and trust with local villages and leaders, leading to significant information sharing about extremists and illicit activity in a region that the US Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Andrew Young, referred to as a “linchpin region” critical to the effort to “re-secure [Mali’s] center.” The event provided an opportunity to discuss security concerns with representatives from the Rangers. It was also a much-needed venue to build awareness within Mali about the importance of both security and conservation efforts in the Gourma. The US Deputy Chief of Mission, representatives from Mali’s Ministry of Environment, and an environmental NGO took the opportunity to appeal for additional support, highlight the region’s significance, and commend the exceptional work of the Rangers. The equipment donated (rucksacks, camelbaks, GPS devices, solar chargers, headlamps, binoculars, and digital cameras) will, as the Chief of the Rangers stated, “further operationalized [the] men on the ground,” increasing their capacity to conduct longer and more effective patrols, improving regional security and ultimately defeating malign actors in the future. More time is needed before the true impact of the equipment is felt. So, please, check back for additional updates and feedback from the field. You can find ways to get involved in this or any of our other efforts in the world’s toughest places here. Chris VanJohnson Africa Project Manager
Chris is a US Army veteran having served as an Armor officer with a deployment to Baghdad in 2008-09 and then as a Special Operations Civil Affairs Officer with multiple deployments to Nepal in 2011-12.