Fana as the host village of the Forum of the People, lodging, meals: the organizers’ choices regarding these aspects of the Forum were not random. Rather, they testify to the will of the organizers to anchor the gathering in reality, even if it meant enduring certain inconveniences-the kind that the rural populations live with each day.
The Forum of the People was organized with respect for the realities of the locality which hosted it. It was a framework for exchange between the different components of Malian-African-society. It aimed to develop new behaviors that encourage activism in the fight against impoverishment in any form, intellectual or financial. It contributed to the mobilization of the people on the political and economic questions that that affect their lives. In other words, it offered a space for dialogue, education, and building of alternatives.
Hosting, lodging, food: these three organizational aspects had a particular significance that contributed to the Forum’s larger goal, that of constructing a society that is just, equitable, and socially responsible.
Concerning lodging, for example, the basic idea was to lodge all the participants under the same conditions. If there was a distinction in the types of residences which were granted to participants, lecturers, journalists, or foreigners, it was not intended to create a divide between the individuals, but to facilitate the work of the people who had to contribute to the success of the Forum.
In order to affect the maximum number of people, and to approach the reality of everyday life in Mali, the choice was made for a rural zone rather than an urban one-a zone known, in addition, for its activism. It was a political choice, but it also represented a logistic challenge, taking into account the extent of the event. The city’s entire infrastructure was reserved: cottages, schools, hotels, campsites, and other types of lodging were distributed according to the Jatiguiya, the tradition of Malian hospitality. It was necessary to give a certain priority to the foreign delegations and to the speakers: Jatiguiya is a proof of the host’s respect, solidarity, and generosity.
Since the Forum aimed to raise people’s awareness about the importance of eating locally-grown food, with the support of the Association d’entraide et de développement (AED), food was prepared by the women of the city. The meals were consumed according to Malian custom, in a group, eating with hands from a common bowl. Unusual conditions for some; uncomfortable, even, for others. But it was part of the spirit of the Forum to accept these conditions and to live the experiment according to principles espoused by Gandhi: “live simply, that others might simply live.”
The Fana Forum had certain organizational problems, due to a day of rain. Problems with the potable water supply unfortunately exceeded the experience and competence of the organizers and the local authorities. These kinds of difficulties were the same ones that people live with every day in this country, outside the capital. And the determination of the participants very often made it possible to overcome the challenges. The evaluation carried out at the end of the Forum will doubtless enable the organizers to benefit from the experiment, and to improve upon it, with the support of everyone.