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Droughts in Mali causing crisis

Skulls and horns litter the dried out bed of Lake Banzena. It has not rained for months and the area is suffering from the most severe drought to hit Mali in 29 years - Abbie Trayler-Smith | Panos Pictures

Rainfall shortage is almost a regular phenomenon in our country, but this year’s case is worrying. We are going to face a famine this year. The harvests failed because it didn’t rain enough. My field of rice was the most affected. I didn’t harvest any rice at all. Many other people in my village will suffer from this situation.

We experienced the same problem the year before last. It rained well at the beginning of the rainy season, but it stopped in the middle. My rice crops dried up as if they had been burnt in a fire. I didn’t harvest rice and the millet failed also. The start of 2011 was a good season at the beginning. But then it stopped raining and the rice ears dried. It brought me into many difficulties. I was worried about how to feed my family.

These kinds of difficulties are hard to handle. Some days you don’t know how to find food for your children. Since my husband died I’m feeding my children alone, so I need to provide their food and their clothes. Last year and the year before, I faced those difficulties. We traded on our small belongings and I sold what little groundnut I had in store. I used part of that money to feed the children and traded with the other part.

It hurts my heart. When your heart hurts you can’t think straight. When you are in trouble you can’t see with your mind. It is like the problems are hanging on your heart. When you are facing food problems you don’t want to see children suffering because it hurts your heart. It leads me to dislike myself, and I start to pity myself. When you see the children are pitiful, without being able to do something to help them, you don’t know what to do.

I’m suffering from rainfall shortage. It is a problem that even affects children’s education. My children go to school, but sometimes I don’t know how to pay for their education. This is why I said it makes me think a lot. Children want to study, but I’m poor. They go to school, but sometimes they can’t when I can’t pay for their education.

Usually, when the harvests fail I sell small animals to earn money and feed my family. Before school started [in October] I had a goat and a sheep, but I sold them to pay for copybooks and clothes for the children. Now I don’t have small animals. If the rainfall shortages continue, the future will be even more difficult. It will be an endless difficulty because when you are poor it is harder to save for future.

As told to

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Kaidia Samaké