“In Mali (Kayes region, village of Banzana), I remember when I was a child we used to start sowing on the 25th day of May to ensure a good season and the harvests were usually good. But nowadays, the rainy season starts later and later, and this year we started sowing in July and August. So if it doesn’t rain enough it will be difficult to have a good harvest. At that time we also observed the storks passing by. They came to lay their nests in the fifth month of the year and left to return one or two months later. For us it was the signal for the beginning of the winter period, the rain came and we started to work the fields. The storks are here! The winter has started! Storks, come to my field!
Today it is said that no seed grows properly without these chemical fertilizers. In the past we used to use only organic manure, but now we use it because we think it is necessary for a good harvest. But in recent years we have noticed that the leaves of tomatoes turn red quickly after they appear, and it’s the same with okra. In fact, it’s the same for all fruits and vegetables. For fertilisers, we use both chemical and natural fertilisers.
These fertilizers also reach our rivers which are already polluted by our laundry water, this situation causes the lack of fish. We are all responsible for what is happening because we use too much wood in our kitchens, we use few improved stoves although this is one of the solutions to avoid abusive wood cutting, we continue to use charcoal as well, this remains the main source of income here. But if we had other alternatives, we could do otherwise!
The trees are further and further away from the village, without the trees there are no barriers against wind, floods or silting. The sand used to stay on the hilltops, but due to deforestation the sand is gradually invading us. Trees used to surround our cultivation and housing areas, they protected us, fed us and healed us, it prevented disasters.
With the water and forestry service, we agreed to stop cutting down trees. This is the only solution we have found for the moment. Even to collect dead wood in the bush, you need a certificate issued by this service. They often go on patrol to ensure that these measures are respected. There are no more trees in Banzana, you have to travel several kilometres to see any trees! For cooking we buy either wood or bags of charcoal.”
Photo: Sidibé Bourama, a farmer from Banzana, in front of a sorghum crop before shelling.