PHOTO STORY: After the war in Mali

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PHOTO STORY: After the war in Mali

In times of war, markets help people survive. Irina Mosel shows the life in the markets of Mali.


Women selling sauces in Bandiagara market. © Irina Mosel

There has been terrible fighting in Mali for the last two years, between by separatists in the north, Islamic groups, the Malian military and international forces. More than half a million people had to leave their homes to escape from the violence, and 3.5 million people were hungry. Nearly half of these were at risk of starvation. The crisis has not ended: there is still insecurity, more than 200,000 people have no homes and 1.9 million people still do not have enough food.

But people are surviving – many of them because of the lively markets in Mali. There is a risk of violence all the time, the trade routes are closed, and there is not much food. But these market traders have changed their business to bring food and opportunities to their community.

Only 10 per cent of the land on the Bandiagara plateau is good to grow food. This year there was very little rain, so many villages could only grow a very small amount of food.

It’s not clear when Mali will be able to return to normal after the war and not enough water and food. But these markets and the traders will definitely be very important in helping many villages across the country.


A woman sells rice in Bandiagara market (Irina Mosel)

During the war, Bandiagara was cut off from the regular rice trading routes to and from northern Mali and Algeria. For three months, it was difficult for traders to bring in any rice from the north of the country, because most fighting was there. Now a small amount of rice is coming into the area. Traders have adapted and now have different businesses to earn money eg. selling shoes from Burkina Faso.


A trader brings shallots (small onions) from a village to Bandiagara town on market day. (Irina Mosel)

Shallots and onions are an important for earning money across the Sahel. Grains (eg. millet and sorghum) are mostly for local people to eat. Normally farmers grow two or three lots of shallots per year. But this year, because of the fighting and not much rain, most of them will only be able to grow one lot.


One of the first female animal traders in Bandiagara (Irina Mosel)

This woman was one of the first female traders to start importing livestock (animals) from the north to the Bandiagara region. She lost everything when her store in Gao market, where she kept several tonnes of produce, was destroyed by fire in the fighting in 2012.

She is now trying to start her business again, but many of the people she used to do business with in the north are no longer there. To earn some money, she is now also selling fruit and vegetables at the market.


Horse trader in Garoule village (Irina Mosel)

War in the north and the food crisis have had a very bad effect on livestock traders – the price of food for animals rose a lot, and animal vaccines, which normally come from the north, were difficult to get. Cows, sheep, goats and donkeys did not have enough food and they had to sell them for half the normal price. Many livestock traders have had to end their businesses.

Market day in Garoulé market, a village on the plains below the cliffs of Bandiagara (Irina Mosel)

During the fighting, people were scared to use their normal trade routes to Mopti to buy sugar, rice and milk, and to sell the millet (grain) they grew. So people had to buy from and sell to traders who sometimes came along the road from Burkina Faso.

Irina Mosel is a researcher with the Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) at the Overseas Development Institute.