The hungry children we found on the border with Mali were not a punctual event.
We did not know it, but every few years there is a food crisis in the Sahel due to rainfall problems and, sometimes, pests. So far in the 21st century, there have been poor harvests and hunger throughout the Sahel in 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2018. Although we have gone to Burkina Faso every year and many times in summer, we were not aware of it, until this June. Yes, when sometimes in the villages they told us: it is raining very little, there will be a bad harvest … they told us as if by chance, like someone who says anything else, or we wanted to understand it that way.
What does a bad harvest mean? After the harvest the grain is stored in the granaries: with this single food the women will prepare the food every day. They will grind it in large wooden mortars or in flat stones according to the ethnic groups, they will grind it every day after going to look for water, being the second main task of the day and they will grind it until there is a fine flour. When the evening approaches, they will put a pot of water in the fire, where they will pour this flour; and they will stir until obtaining a thick, white paste, the tô. A white and insipid mass: carbohydrates. They will usually take it accompanied with a sauce made with baobab leaves or other leaves to add a little flavour, rarely with pieces of ochro and less frequent with peanut sauce. If they are lucky enough, they will eat tô the 365 days of the year.
When there is a bad harvest, towards the end of June, the grain ends and the soudure period begins, hunger gap in English. There is nothing to eat and there will be nothing until October, when they will be able to harvest the next harvest.
The weakest children, with fewer reserves, will die and the most vulnerable children are the youngest. Women will not be able to breastfeed … Money does not circulate. How to buy food? How to go to the field to work for the next harvest?
Post by Montse Vallmitjana