Seasonal coping strategies in Central Mali: Five villages during the "Soudure"
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Soudure refers to the hungry season between June, the start of the rains, and October, the start of the harvest, when there is little food left over from the harvest and energy is yet to be expended on work in the fields. Rural Malians cope with low food and income levels during dry seasons by diversifying their income sources and trying to limit asset sales. The paper tracks the use of coping strategies during the dry season in five Malian villages about 250 km north of Bamako (Mourdiah, Gallo, Wolokoro, Kaloumba, N'Tominkoro) on the road to Nara, near the Mauritanian border. The villages are located near major water sources (such as the Niger or Senegal rivers), are overwhelmingly agropastoral and have relatively easy access by tarmac road to the larger cities of Bamako and Nara. These cities are centres of seasonal migration and proximity to them therefore increases work options for those who live in central Mali. The 1989/90 harvest was mediocre throughout northern Mali. It followed an excellent harvest the year before and a poor one in 1987. Agricultural production in the five villages varied because of many factors: drought/delayed rain, grasshoppers, locusts, blister beetles and birds. Villagers responded to the food and income shortages by increasing out-migration, which showed a marked increase in 1991 even from 1990. The paper provides separate information on each of the five villages, and the ingenious coping strategies that rural Malians adopt. The paper suggests two kinds of projects, using local labour to improve the infrastructure, and also introducing training programmes to teach basic adult literacy, the repair of well pumps and new cultivation and herding techniques. These would support local initiative, although they must recognize the flexibility and diversification of activities in central Mali which are vital for survival. (CAB Abstracts)