The photo shows a field of millet, but millet farming is disappearing in Bandafassi because of the lack of rain. Millet used to be the main source of food, and it is also very important culturally. It is used for celebrations: beer is made from it for traditional Malinké and Bedik ceremonies, and the stalks are used in the dance of married women every 4 years and in the construction of hut walls. Millet beer is also important for mutual aid during the winter months.
Today, because of the lack of rain, very few people grow millet – just 2 or 3 per village. Instead, groundnuts, yellow maize (white maize takes too long to grow) and a little rice are grown. The disappearance of millet farming has had an impact on health, with people eating mainly rice and cases of diabetes on the increase. In my grandparents’ day, we used to give millet porridge to the very sick and to children. Without millet, we can’t produce beer, which has consequences for traditional ceremonies and for mutual aid during the rainy season. Without beer and the money to buy wine or cider, we can’t call on many people to do chores during the winter. Millet has become very expensive; it used to cost 5,000 CFA francs, but now it costs 20,000 or 20,250 francs, and we can’t find any millet in March.