Some local friends at our Training Center. Our head farmer, Sedou, in the garden
A recent satellite image of our field office and training center. Click Here for before and after images. Some onions in the ECOVA MALI garden. Some typical Malian granaries. The typical "su su" mortar and pestle used by the majority of rural Malian women to prepare daily meals from millet, sorghum, maize, or rice.
I hope this letter finds you all in good health and spirits!
As you may know, the current situation in Mali is not good. There is ongoing political turmoil in the south and a separatist rebellion/occupation in the north. The cost of food, fuel, and other critical necessities has increased, putting the average Malian family in very dire straits. To make matters worse there is a food crisis of catastrophic proportions growing throughout the Sahel region stemming from a poor rainy season last year, and doubts about whether or not this year's rainy season will be adequate to insure good harvests.
There is a term in Bambara often used to refer to the time of year from June through September, “kongo waati” which literally means, "the hunger season". It corresponds with the rainy season, when many families' food stores from the last year's harvest are seriously depleted (or gone) and the crops in the field are not yet ready for harvest. This year’s hunger season threatens to become a hunger year, with devastating consequences.
In order to help address the growing food crisis in Mali that poses a threat to hundreds of thousands of Malians, ECOVA MALI wants to expand our micro-loan program to create food banks in 10 small, rural villages to help buffer families from the risk of running out of food before the reap of the new harvests. We are modeling this program after an indigenous food security system that still exists in some (but not many) villages in Mali. In Greg’s former Peace Corps host village, each family contributes 1/3 of their harvest to the communal granary. Every family has the right to "withdraw" rations of millet or sorghum should their own food stores run out. In the event that surplus grain remains at the end of “the hunger season”, it is sold and the proceeds divvied up proportionately amongst the families of the village based on the amounts originally contributed.
We would like to help villages start their own food banks by giving them a number of sacks consisting of millet, sorghum, maize, beans, peanuts, or some combination thereof. Rather than have the villages pay the cost of these food stores back to ECOVA MALI in cash, the agreement would require the villages to adopt a community food bank model like the one described above, so that these communities will have a buffer to the “hunger season” in subsequent years and the potential to raise additional funds for the community in the event of a particularly good harvest.
Our goal is to raise at least $5,000 by the end of this month. Although ambitious, we know that with your help we will reach it! With $5,000 we will be able to supply 10 small villages (population <500 people) with 500-600 kgs (half a ton or more) of dry staple foods, which will make a considerable difference in the food security situation for these communities.
We are making this push before the end of June because “kongo waati sera” (the hunger season has arrived), and we are able to accept online donations through Google Check-out without paying the usual 3% commission! Please do what you can to help us reach our goal and kindly spread the word to your friends & family asking them to do the same. 100% of funds raised go directly to support our efforts on the ground in Mali.
Best wishes and many thanks to you all!
Greg and Cynthia Hellmann Flatt
Co-Founders and Directors
ECOVA MALI, Inc.
69 Cherry St.
Swampscott, MA 01907