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Mali: rains bring hope to villagers – for now

A woman harvests her family's sorghum and millet crops, with her baby on her back. Sorghum is the staple crop in Kaidia's village - Rhodri Jones | Panos Pictures

The rainy season is good for the time being. If it continues to rain regularly, as it has started to do, that will be fine. At the time I’m talking the crops are in a good state. Their leaves are thriving as it started to rain early (in June) as we expected.

Most of the time, however, the problems come at the end of the rainy season.  This is when we can determine how the harvests will be. Even last year the beginning of the rainy season wasn’t so bad. The problem came with the end; it didn’t rain while the crops needed water to finish their growth. This explains the situation of food shortage we are facing now. And the rain scarcity affected other income sources such as shea butter production as the shea trees didn’t produce enough fruits.

Anyway, this year people started to work in the fields earlier and the rains have so far been regular. We are very satisfied with the way our crops are growing. But not all the farmers are doing the same kind of work on their land. Some people are weeding their fields of sorghum or maize. Many others are still sowing short-cycle groundnuts [peanuts].

Those who are sowing are late, and this is one of the reasons to choose short-cycle seeds. I’m also late because I don’t have bulls to plough my land. I’m obliged to wait for those who have bulls to finish ploughing their own farms. Then I can hire their bulls for half a day or one day if I have enough money. So while those who have bulls finish sowing, I am only starting to plough my land.

I ploughed the soil ready for groundnut recently, then I sowed the seeds. I also planted rice recently. But I couldn’t wait for other people’s ploughs to sow my sorghum, as this is our main staple crop. Once it started to rain I sowed the seeds of sorghum directly into the ground without ploughing it. I can’t risk being late with the sorghum and having a poor harvest. It is less important with groundnut.

The way I sowed my sorghum is an ancient agrarian technique called mbakay (in Bamabara language). It allows farmers to win time when they don’t have the means to plough a large space when the first rains come.

It is not the best technique to grow crops, but we don’t have the choice. It costs 6000 francs CFA (USD1.15) per day to hire bulls. I can’t afford that.

 

soumaila-diarra

As told to

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Kaidia Samaké

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Aug 29, 2012

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