Translating scientific concepts into local African languages

Posted 30th March 2022 by Bakara Dicko

Engagement with stakeholders ensures that Target Malaria’s technology, and our project activities, are accurately and honestly communicated to all, most importantly to the potential beneficiaries of the technology in Africa.

As our research at Target Malaria Mali progresses, we have been working closely with stakeholders and experts to ensure that we have the right vocabulary in local languages to communicate about our research in a clear and efficient manner.

Our next phase of work will focus on building capacity in molecular biology techniques to support the identification of genetically modified mosquitoes. To be able to communicate these activities with our stakeholders in communities, Target Malaria Mali partnered with the Malian Academy of Languages (AMALAN) to carry out workshops in January focused on translating our molecular biology activities into Bamanankan. Bamanankan is spoken by 80% of Mali’s population and is the most widely used and understood language in the country.

This new work will be focused on the use of molecular biology tools, and in particular the Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique.

The Target Malaria Mali team and the Malian Academy of Languages at the workshop

PCR is a widely used chemical laboratory technique that allows amplification of a specific fragment of DNA to visualize and detect specific DNA sequences. PCR is used for many purposes, such as detecting the genetic material of a specific organism like a virus in patients. It is widely used for COVID-19 tests, differentiating between different organisms, and quantifying gene expression. This new phase of work will enable the team to develop and optimize the use of PCR for identifying unique genetic modifications in different strains of genetically modified mosquitoes.

During the workshop with the Malian Academy of Languages, Principal Investigator Dr. Mamadou Coulibaly, the stakeholder engagement team and the entomology and insectary leads examined key concepts and expressions relating to genetics, and proposed translations into Bamanankan. These translations were then tested and validated by the local communities at the study sites of Sogolombougou and Ouassorola, and amendments were fed back to the AMALAN and Target Malaria teams.

The overall goal of our engagement is to build an enabling environment for dialogue and consultation with our stakeholders regarding the project’s goals and to ensure that the potential beneficiaries of the technology, and those impacted by our work, are at the heart of decision-making. Ensuring key concepts are effectively communicated with stakeholders in relevant local languages is critical to this approach.

With these new terms now available in Bamanankan, our Stakeholder Engagement team will be able to communicate more easily around key concepts relating to genetics and to explain the scope of our work clearly and concisely.

Communities take part in our scientific activities, such as mosquito collections, and in monitoring the progress of our work. When a new phase of our work begins, local residents are asked whether they agree to our team carrying out planned activities, and we seek agreement repeatedly over time to ensure communities are only asked to support specific activities for a limited period.

We enjoyed working with the Malian Academy of Languages to translate key scientific concepts relating to our research, and we look forward to continued engagement with local communities as we move into the next phase of Target Malaria’s work in Mali.