Desert of Green
Everything came together with the strong support of Africare. Africare helped us to improve our children’s health; Africare organized us; Africare brought the community back together.
There is a secret to farming in northern Mali, where the outer edge of the Sahara Desert meets the dry arid lands of the Sahel. Water is a precious resource, conservation is a necessity, and innovation is key before any crop can thrive.
Moussa Ag Demba knows this first hand. He is a farmer in Goundam Circle, located not far from the fabled city of Timbuktu. He grew up in the area and knows the lands well; he also knows how it feels to go for months without being able to feed his family.
“It is troubling not to be able to fill the bellies of your children and your wife each night,” Moussa says. “And this is not because you did not try but because nature would not allow it.”
Goundam is one of many isolated areas in northern Mali, limited in agricultural production because of its lack of infrastructure and large distances between towns and buyers, affecting especially the health and nutrition of its people.
For this reason, many of the area’s farmers banded together in a union to support each other. Moussa is president of the union, and in times of insecurity remembers leading discussions about sharing best practices and resources in order to get each other through hard times. But even with the best of intentions, the group was highly disorganized, had few resources to support each other, and more questions than answers when it came to their harvests.
“I could not be a president before the intervention of Africare,” remarks Moussa. “Before Africare there was no structure at all in this community. There was lack of organization. Africare helped us to improve our children’s health; Africare organized us. Africare brought the community back together.”
Identified by Africare’s Timbuktu Food Security Initiative in 2008, the Circle of Goundam now receives modern tools, equipment and training that allow the community to cultivate healthy fields of wheat and rice in the middle of the Sahel, using less seed and water to do it!
The innovations have made certain villages in the Circle of Goundam food-sufficient all year round and better educated about their families’ health. It’s a shining testament to development at work in Africa.
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