Was out on a research trip into the Ganadugu region for a development agency.
People living in Mali for twenty years are claiming they have never seen rain in January, but it has now been raining for three days.
The Locals are frozen and wearing winter jackets, and hats, most staying inside, or near fires to keep warm. I figured the rain would cancel our research trip, as the 138km round trip had to be on a motorcycle.
However, my Malian guide called to say he felt we should still go, because the rain is over. It seems my Malian friend is no meteorologist, for we spent the next eight hours either driving or walking the the rain, all day long, surveying two remote villages. Who would have dreamed you could get borderline hypothermia in Mali, but we did.
My guide was actually falling asleep on the back of my motorcycle on the way home. His helmet would first butt into my shoulder blades, and then slowly slide its way lower and lower down my spine as he drooped from the cold induced sleep. He could have fallen off. I tooted the horn four or five times to wake him up.
He called this morning to say he had a headache all night from it, as did I. He is sitting by an open fire this morning recuperating.
Anyway, my shoes were filled with rain water, little swimming pools for my feet. My wife was impressed with the volume of water I wrung out of my socks. The villagers, and my neighbors all looked at me as some crazy white guy, i’m certain. They kept asking me if I was cold. I get it, not many NGO’s do this, like this. Maybe in a nice 4+4, but not on a bike.
We found another hidden and neglected people.
Of course with 20 degree temperatures, and rain, the villages were all tucked into their little mud homes seeking shelter from the rain and the cold wind, as they huddled around small wood fires burning right there on the dirt floors. The smoke filling the small spaces, must be great for their heath.
They have the most basic life and living conditions, no where is life any more basic than this. They have water shortages in dry season. Not a single vegetable is growing in either village right now, I know because I walked the whole village and checked every “Garden”, inside and outside the village. They walk 15 km to the nearest market to find vegetables. But, I can assure you of this, they simply don’t buy any, because they can’t afford to. I have never seen a village with so few moto’s and so many graineries. Both indicators that they store most of what they grow, are not able to convert much of their harvest to cash. They need it to eat.
My friend was right. He said I would pity them when i saw them.
And I did.