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Thousands of people work on the banks of the Niger in Mali, digging for sand to sell to the construction industry in Bamako. Meanwhile, the traditional mud masons of Djenne are struggling to keep their ancient tradition of mud architecture alive.  


Jane Labous spent a month in Mali reporting this story for BBC Radio 4, The Royal Geographical Society and The Independent newspaper. 

Jane Labous travelled to to the little town of Koulikoro to talk to the sand-diggers who spend back-breaking hours in 40-degree heat dredging tons of sand and gravel from the riverbed to satisfy the relentless hunger for aggregates of Bamako's builders. 

But at what cost? The fishermen are outraged by the way the river waters are disturbed and their livelihood threatened. As for the sand-diggers themselves, the natural perils of the Niger - crocodiles, hippopotamus, not to mention the river-genies who must be appeased - are now compounded by the dangerous deep trenches in the riverbed that make diving ever more dangerous. Now the locals have taken out an order to ban the diggers from the shallow waters close to Koulikoro's centre where the town's children love to play. 


With bandits threatening the north of the country, the other big question on Jane's mind is whether she'll make it to the regional capital of Djenné safely to see the city's mighty grand mosque - entirely made of mud....

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 documentary here.

Read the feature in Geographical here: 

Read Jane's article in The Independent here

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