Food crises have plagued Mali in recent years due to drought and recurring political conflicts.

The January 2012 massacre of Malian soldiers by armed Tuareg fighters in the far north precipitated the Malian coup in March of 2012 by the National Committee for Recovering Democracy and Restoring the State (NCRDRS). That and the subsequent struggle in the north of Mali involving two groups of Tuareg (Ansar Dine and the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad), both followed a severe drought in the 2011-2012 season.

In 2011, Mali received only one month of rain, compared to the usual three. As a result, only 11% of Mali’s farmers were able to save seed for the following year’s planting season. This cut the country’s 2012 seed supply by half, severely affecting the rice-growing area in the Mopti region.i The drought forced pastoralists to move their animals north six months earlier than usual that year because of a lack of floodplain pasture along the Niger River.ii This led to overgrazing in northern pastures as usual staggered migrations were disrupted.iii Those pastoralists who did stay in the southern region were trapped between the sparse floodplains and the violent north. The increased grazing pressure on the land led to conflicts with farmers, especially in the Mopti region.iv

With the fall of Libya, arms flowed clandestinely into Mali’s three northern regions bordering Algeria. The regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal were overrun by a succession of armed groups—some claiming to represent an Islamic “jihad,” some involved in drug trafficking and kidnapping of Westerners, and some claiming the right to an independent state. An Islamist group (MUJAO) took over the area and eventually displaced the armed Tuareg groups claiming independence for “Azawad.” The violent imposition of sharia law in Gao and Timbuktu led to the internal displacement of 261,000 people and the emigration of 170,000 more.v Refugees fled, leaving everything they owned behind. Displaced pastoralists also found themselves with no resources for their cattle. Those who stayed in the north have been terrorized by war and occupation. In the southern regions, especially Mopti, farmers, whose stocks were already low, struggled to feed more internally displaced people. Grain prices rose

The shortage of staple products due to the previous drought continued, further complicated by the Islamist occupation in the north. A tax was required from every farmer: one-twentieth of the harvest. Petro shortages reduced areas irrigated by motor-power. Most importantly, in some areas women were no longer allowed to leave their homes for normal business activities in the market or to work alongside men. This, and the massive displacement of people, decimated the agricultural workforce, collapsing the economy in the occupied regions. As a result, less than half of Gao’s agricultural land is being farmed today.vii

When French and Malian armies drove back the armed groups, Algeria closed its borders to block the jihadists retreat to Algerian territory. Algeria had been a main provider of staple foods oil, couscous, rice, and milk for Kidal region, but food exports to Mali have decreased by 50%. Internal trade has also been affected; the movement of food to Kidal from Mopti has decreased by 40%, and, as the Mopti-Douentza-Gao corridor to the south is disrupted by military activity and land mines, the only way that food can reach Gao is via the Niger river from Niger. Because of this, and the grain shortage, the price of millet is now 120% higher than the five-year average.viii The departure of many Arab merchants who fled Timbuktu and Gao for fear of retaliatory measures and the fighting that resulted in the burning of Gao’s central market have made food inaccessible to many families.

Agriculture is the mainstay of Mali’s economy. The returning refugees of Gao, Mopti and Kidal are struggling to prepare market gardens and rice fields but they urgently need seeds, tools and irrigation pumps for the region to survive the “lean season.”


By Camille Vignerot and Tiffany Tsang, April 5, 2013

You can help buy vegetable and rice seeds to help these farmers plant in May.













i Integrated Regional Information Networks. “Mali’s Rains Have Come, but There Are Too Few Rice and Millet Seeds | Global Development |” The Guardian Development Network., August 21, 2012.….

ii “MALI: Pastoralism – Between Resilience and Survival.” IRINnews. Accessed April 2, 2013.

iii MALI Food Security Outlook. FEWS NET Famine Early Warning Systems Network. Accessed April 2, 2013.

iv “MALI: Pastoralism – Between Resilience and Survival.” IRINnews. Accessed April 2, 2013.

v Mali Crisis (Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger). World Food Programme, March 25, 2013.….

vi ”MALI: Pastoralism – Between Resilience and Survival.” IRINnews. Accessed April 2, 2013.

vii Ahmed, Baba. “Nord-Mali: une campagne agricole sous le diktat des islamistes.” mali Jet, December 28, 2012.….

viii “Food insecurity the next crisis for northern Mali,” January 23, 2013.…