Mali is a culturally rich country in West Africa. Like many African nations, solid waste management is an immense challenge, particularly the proliferation of flimsy plastic bags around the country. The bags do not biodegrade quickly, thus taking up already limited landfill capacity and hindering other materials from biodegrading faster. Bamako also has immense challenges in ensuring a functioning and effective collection and disposal solid waste management system.
Bamako and The Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County (Athens-Clarke) partnered to develop and implement solutions to support the city as it strived to meet its solid waste management challenges. The most important component of the project, which concluded in November 2005, was the development and implementation of a working solid waste management system in a small area of the city as part of a "learning laboratory."
Athens-Clarke worked with the City of Bamako to collaboratively develop an action plan for the project. The action plan included the following major objectives:
- Development and implementation of a beautification and educational media campaign
- Development and implementation of transit dumps within the model area
- Management and landfill operation training and training material development
The team from Athens-Clarke County played an integral role in providing technical assistance in implementing project objectives such as training, educational materials, and consultation. A key asset that Athens-Clarke County brought to the project was Jason Peek, the engineering administrator in the Athens’ Public Works Department, who served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali several years ago. His ability to speak Bumbra and French, the languages spoken in Mali, and his understanding of the area's local culture and norms contributed significantly to the development and implementation of solutions to Bamako’s solid waste challenges.