Amid hunger crisis, cereal bank helps families in Mali survive

A cereal bank built by World Vision in Mali has made it easier for families to survive food shortages. Families in need can acquire cereal from there now — and pay back what they took after the next harvest.

Story and photos by Justin Douglass, World Vision Mali
Published July 27, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

Across Africa’s Sahel region, food supplies are typically at their lowest point during the rainy season, or lean season, which is from June through September.

But because of failed rains and disappointing harvests during the past year, the deficit is particularly severe now.

To help mitigate the crisis, World Vision has built a cereal bank in the village in Mali where Chaka Diarra lives.

Chaka, 14, is sponsored through World Vision. He and his family received three 220-pound bags of cereal from the bank.

During the summer holidays, Chaka helps his family cultivate the land for planting crops of millet, peanuts, rice, and corn. But the lack of rain means the harvest isn’t enough for the family to last the whole year.

Take now, pay back later

Families in need in this area can acquire cereal from the cereal bank and pay it back after the harvest. There is a 20-percent charge, so if a family takes a 220-pound bag, then they must give the cereal bank 264 pounds of cereal upon harvest.

“I am glad to have [the] cereal bank, because it helps us to get food when the rains are not good,” says Amadou Diarra, Chaka’s father. The family will receive cereal this month and pay it back between December and April.

Amadou notes that if World Vision had not built the cereal bank, his family would have been forced to go farm for someone else, and the wages earned would be used to buy food.

Amadou and his family receive a bag of cereal from the cereal bank.He says working on another farm is not good, because a family is then unable to grow their own crops and have their own cereal.

A crucial safety net

But the other alternative is even worse. Amadou would have to leave his home — as part of a growing rural exodus in the Sahel region of Africa — and his close-knit family would be broken up.

The older children would be sent off to towns or the capital city to earn income for food. The mothers would be left to take care of the little children by themselves.

“It is different working for someone else,” Amadou Diarra says, “because we will continue to suffer, because we have no time to work on my farm.”

He concludes by speaking candidly. “If World Vision did not build the cereal bank, then I would not be able to provide enough food for my family.”

Learn more

Read another story about a similar cereal bank initiative supported by World Vision in neighboring Senegal.

Read posts about the hunger crisis in West Africa on the World Vision Blog.

Three ways you can help

Please pray for families and communities affected by the ongoing hunger crisis in the Sahel region of Africa, including Mali, and pray that these cereal bank projects will help alleviate their struggles. Pray also for a healthy harvest in the upcoming year.

Make a one-time donation to help provide life-saving food and care to places affected by hunger, like Mali. Your gift will help us deliver interventions like emergency food aid, agricultural support, nutritional guidance, clean water, and more.

Sponsor a child in Mali. Your love and ongoing support for a boy or girl in need will help provide basics like nutritious food, clean water, medical care, education, and more — all of which contribute to an important safety net when disasters strike, like the current hunger crisis.