It has not rained here since long before I arrived, well over four months.
I have seen rain in Mali only eight times since i began working here over six years ago. Two of those rains were just a sprinkle. Two more were a good down pour for fifteen minutes or so. Only one rain was an all night rain. Last year, on a freak 30 year surprise to everyone, it misted and dribbled rained for three full days.
When I arrive the short growing season is long since over, and the brown grasses are already the new reality. I see the signs of a full rainy season, but have never experienced the greening of southern Mali first hand. I am not here in Mali then, as they do not need me at that busy time of year. I am still an outsider of a complete experience of Mali’s changing seasons.
I saw the signs of prolonged drought this week. A six foot wide stream we used to cross in two feet of water, just 12 weeks ago, was reduced to a foot, then six inches, two weeks ago.
Today, the rapid change shocked me. It always does. The water is gone. No mud, no signs that water was ever flowing there. I crossed on dry gravel today. Within days it is like the tap was shut off.
I took another route home that I will rarely use because it crosses a small river about thirty feet across. It usually is about a foot deep, which is passable.
However, the river bottom sees me driving on a huge, flat, rock slab, slippery with moss. I have nearly wiped out on the motorcycle too often there, so i avoid it, though it is the preferred path of choice to my colleague.
That route was also bone dry, with bare rocks. A few puddles and pools of water trapped between some rocks that will be dry by my next passing.
I got to thinking of the women gardening by a stream. They said it drys up in March. Sure enough the water has stopped flowing by. There is still water, but the stream is no longer flowing, it too will soon be dry. I hope they can drip irrigate their vegetables until the end. If not, they have to haul water from the village pump, a considerable distance away. Crossing my fingers.
The Sahara Desert shows these villages no mercy. They have to fight against the Sahara’s effect on the whole country tooth and nail in order to have vegetables in drought season, which is nine months of the year.
No mud on my motorcycle tires, for them means, no water.