In the heart of the Mandinka territory in western Mali, the Mandinka believe that cutting down a tree is a sacrilege.This is the land of the sacred tree, the tree of life, the tree of words, the one that protects from evil spirits.
So what has been going on here these past few weeks has left people with a bitter taste and belief that the land of their ancestors is being desecrated. In two months a Chinese company lumbered 243 tonnes of wood, in what is one of the country’s last forest natural reserves. And it’s not just any wood but Vene Wood, a precious wood which resembles teak and whose leaves are used to feed livestock.
Mandinka hunters are firing guns into the air to show their anger. The Minister of Environment had visited the region earlier that day to try to calm things down. Around the negotiation table are angry residents and two very ill-at-ease Chinese representatives of the logging company.
People want to know more about this contract. The debate is fueled by a rumour: Chinese authorities may have promised they would build a modern hospital in the capital city of Bamako in exchange for a five-year logging contract. The Malian government have temporarily suspended the logging contract due to the anger of the locals. But suspended doesn’t mean terminated. The Mandinka people remain determined to save their sacred forest.