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MALI: Western Sahel in Kayes Region Refuses to Give Up on Fight Against Food Insecurity

March 12th, 2012 Posted in Bloggers in West Africa, English, Food and Security, Mali

By Charles Bambara, Regional Media and Communication Coordinator 

One of the most important districts in Malian Western Sahel is Koussané, some 50 km from the Mauritanian border with a very diverse population including Soninke, Marka, and Fulani people. The consequences of last year bad  rain season are starting to show out: Wells in the surrounding  Villages are almost empty, tension between farmers and herders is growing because of insufficient water, and the only remaining activity, growing vegetables in gardens, still a real hope locally for everyone is about to stop, because once again of insufficient water. Charles Bambara has visited different communities in Koussané region at the end of February, here is his witness account.

“I have already seen nearly one thousand residents in my city obliged to move away hoping to get jobs in Mauritania, Senegal or around the mining city of Sadiola not far away, because of the grim future due to food insecurity” said Mamadou Abou Diabira, village chief of Koussané, 85 years old. With the lean season fast approaching water level in wells are already very low, and this is the main concern in the region  which use to rely on remittances send from France, USA, by children living abroad. And” because of financial crisis in Europe, some immigrants are sending as low as 20 Euros  to their families back home, instead of hundreds of Euros like years before”, said Diakite Musa a money transfer  shop owner in Kayes. And he added ”Immigrants now living in other African countries like Gabon and Congo are sending more money to their families than the ones living in Europe”.  

Sebat's women at the local well near Koussane in Western Sahel

Harvests here in Koussané were nil, and with remittances dropping seriously, growing vegetable, women main activity was a real hope to supply critic food dietary supplements to children. If nothing is urgently done it looks like wells in the region will soon run out of water, with potentially serious malnutrition issues not only for children but for adults as well. There is almost no alternative works to do here. Gathering dried woods and selling them in local markets for cooking purpose is not realistic enough as in this remote areas wood is even rare. “The government promise to supply the region with some low cost cereal, is an emptied promise,  as the local mayor is running away not able to say when the supply will be delivered in Koussané” argued  Boubou Diabira an activist member of  local NGO called “Sauver”, “Save”.   People have started reducing their number of meals per day,  a desperate move to help them get through the lean season, but even this extra sacrifice will not guarantee to help them to save their livelihoods and livestock.  

 In Sirimoulo village near Koussané, women cooperative called “Sunset” has harvested two years ago 1.3 tons of cereals. But last year almost nothing was put in barns. And they acted with determination to grow vegetables but they have just realised some few days ago, that water level is very low in the well and that the herders who dig it some months ago,  would like to use it exclusively for their livestock.  “We have to quit and to abandon growing vegetables, and we don’t know what to do now” said Oumou Konaté, chairperson of “Sunset Cooperative in Sirimoulo. 

 Clock is really ticking in this Western Sahel region of Mali, in some few weeks even days the situation will be completely desperate…Television crews could probably be heading in that region trying to understand  what went wrong. To avoid this situation Oxfam is taking the lead a team of logisticians and food security specialists has just arrived in Kayes to scrutinise more the challenges in the villages around and to roll out an emergency operation for the benefit of  people most in need. But it looks like in a few days, it will mean the whole population of Western Sahel in Mali.


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