Mali: Failed rainy season forces some communities to the brink

11 Feb 2014

Last year’s rainy season was a failure in many localities in Mali. The rains – usually at their heaviest between June and September – arrived late and ended early in Bandiagara a district in the Mopti region of Central Mali, severely affecting some of the region’s most vulnerable families.

The land in Bandiagara is especially rocky, and the line between successful and failed crops is perilously thin even in a good year.

“With this year’s harvest, I could only feed my family for two months" said Dienaba Tapily, the head of a family of 10 in the tiny village of Nandoli. “I was only able to produce 200 kg of cereals this year, which is very low compared to the previous years when I produced at least three times this quantity."

Despite this drop in production, Dienaba is one of the more fortunate in her village. Not far from her home, Tégué Ouologueme, a father of nine, was unable to harvest anything.

Only enough food for 2 to 3 months

An assessment carried out in Bandiagara confirmed this dramatic drop in agricultural production compared with previous years. Overall, families were only able to provide enough to feed themselves for two to three months. In a normal year, this harvest would yield enough for six months, with a little extra to be sold on local markets.

In Bandiagara, the failed rains will have a protracted impact. Only 10 per cent of the land can be cultivated, so families here have a tradition of off-season market gardening using water that they store in dams.

Each year, two or three market garden vegetable crops are produced. However, because of the truncated rainfall, only one cycle will be possible this year, further exacerbating the vulnerability of families.

Families turning to counterproductive survival mechanisms

People have already started leaving Bandiagara, searching for work in towns and on farms in neighbouring districts. Some families have started selling their cattle at low prices simply in order to survive. Most have reduced their intake of food – the majority of households are now only consuming one meal per day instead of three.

For the moment, many families are getting by on assistance from their family members who live outside Bandiagara. Despite this, the most vulnerable households need more help to meet their minimum food requirements.

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Updated Date: 
11 February, 2014