About ALMA

The materials that have been contributed so far to this archive represent a wide range of genres and subject matter in Wolof, Mandinka, and Pular, the three major languages of Senegal and The Gambia in West Africa. They include: post-literacy materials (e.g. booklets on small enterprise activities, health, human rights, etc.); newspapers intended for, and sometimes edited by, the newly literate; religious materials (e.g. Koranic and Biblical texts); poetry; information on AIDS and its prevention; folktales and epics; African language translations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and articles on oral history and culture. Further additions to this archive are anticipated in the near future which will include materials in other West African languages and on other subjects.

Each electronic book is accompanied by a keyword-searchable bibliographic record which includes a brief summary in English, French, and the African language of the book itself. The ALMA catalog is maintained by the CAORC's Digital Library for International Research.

The rights-holders of the texts have authorized users of this archive to reproduce, disseminate or otherwise use the material in hard copy or machine-readable form, provided that this is strictly limited to non-commercial, purposes.

A Brief History of the Project (2000-2003)

Based on a feasibility study conducted in 2000 by Dr. Leigh Swigart (currently of Brandeis University and director of the project 2000-2003), UNESCO and CAORC agreed to fund a pilot phase of the ALMA project.

In March 2001, Dr. Swigart visited Senegal and The Gambia in order to meet with various authors/publishers/editors of materials published in Wolof, Pular, and Mandinka. These materials were identified with the assistance of Mr. Matar Baldeh in The Gambia (a literacy specialist at Catholic Relief Services) and Dr. Amadou Hamady Diop in Senegal (a sociolinguist at the Centre de Linguistique Appliquée de Dakar). Many of the materials are also cited in the Répertoire des Manuels d'Education de Base Non Formelle (1999-2000 Version), a publication prepared by the Senegalese Direction de l'Alphabétisation et de l'Education de Base. Dr. Swigart met with several dozen individual authors and directors of NGO's specializing in literacy activities to explain in detail the initiative and to ask for permission to include some of their materials on the ALMA website and CD-ROM.

Between January and March 2001, Abdoulaye Niang, Program Assistant at the West African Research Center (WARC) in Dakar, travelled to Columbia University in New York to receive training in digitization and website development. During the summer of 2001, Dr. Joseph Caruso (African Studies Librarian, Columbia University) worked with Abdoulaye Niang and Matar Baldeh to make further selections of materials and to obtain authorizations from authors and publishers.

In 2002, the final selection process and the creation of the archive of electronic books were completed. At the WARC, the texts and bibliographic records were scanned as images and converted into downloadable PDF files by Abdoulaye Niang. The records were created by Joseph Caruso and the summaries were composed and edited by Abdoulaye Niang, Matar Baldeh, Fallou Gueye (Wolof Instructor, Columbia University), and Joseph Caruso. In November 2002, Columbia University Libraries and CAORC published 34 electronic books on this website.

In 2003, Columbia University Libraries and UNESCO completed the production of the first CD-ROM edition of the ALMA project: "Afiriki tilijii kanolu eletronik safoolu kafunoomoo". The CD-ROM version includes a multi-lingual navigational menu in five languages: English, French, Mandinka, Pular, and Wolof. For more information about the CD-ROM, contact UNESCO (e-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) in Paris, France, or the West African Research Center in Dakar, Senegal.