As promised, here are a couple of pictures from our first day.
The first, a group picture at the Michigan State University/USAID project offices, shows us busy at work. We had a great discussion that went longer than expected, but no one complained, as the content of the discussion was important. We discussed what information smallholders need, and how to possibly get it to them. We also had a very informative presentation concerning the use of Shea as a crop for females, including the difficulty with processing the fruit in the best possible way.
The next couple pictures show us in Manabougou, a small village about 40 kilometers north of Bamako.
The chief of the village oversaw an excellent discussion, which included both male and female farmers.
More surprisingly, the females were as vocal as the males, and didn’t really hold much back. They were very up front about their desire to have more information about how they could start their own entrepreneurial enterprises.
Most of the parents in Manabougou indicated that they did not want their children to become farmers when they grew up. Unfortunately, the cycle of poverty is not usually broken through desire alone, which means that this child (and most of the rest of the children in the village) will more than likely be farmers as well.
This raised an interesting question concerning the long-term viability of the smallholder lifestyle. One of the questions that we’ve been grappling with during our time here is how to make the lifestyle more desirable? Everyone we’ve posed this question to so far has given us relatively vague answers.