BAMAKO — Despite being one of the most successful trading empires in Africa during the Middle Ages, Mali is, today, one of the continent’s poorest nations, and although it is nearly twice its size, Mali’s annual GDP is only 1 percent of that of Texas. However, it is not the economic difficulties that plague Mali most urgently. Hunger in Mali is a serious issue, with approximately one-third of the nation’s land being arable and many of the nation’s 18 million people struggling to put food on the table.
Food security and hunger in Mali has also worsened as a result of conflict in the northern part of the country. According to the WFP, northern regions of the nation, such as Goa, Timbuktu and Kidal, are all facing extreme food shortages. Furthermore, nearly 500,000 people have not only been displaced and unable to seek food for themselves, but sending emergency food assistance to those remaining in the conflict zones has become significantly more difficult.
Furthermore, the situation is only worsening as a result of climate change-linked environmental effects, such as desertification. As previously mentioned, only approximately one-third of Mali’s natural landscape is capable of supporting agriculture. Additionally, the increasing threat of drought is a severe issue for Malian farming practices. The country used to face a drought merely once every 10 to 15 years, but the effects of climate change have caused three droughts to occur in the last decade alone.
So, what can be done to combat hunger in Mali? Firstly, conflict in the northern part of the country must be addressed. The conflict’s history finds its roots in ethnic difficulties. The Malian capital of Bamako has historically failed to relate to or address issues in the northern provinces, where much of the struggles surrounding hunger in Mali are occurring.
A lack of economic development and political representation has caused rebel factions to form, many of whom are ethnically separate from the Bamako political elite. Ending this conflict through increased political representation and economic support could allow for emergency food aid to be delivered to struggling communities in the northern provinces.
In addition to reducing conflict within the nation, hunger in Mali can be combatted by engaging in environmentally sustainable agricultural practices. The implementation of solar panels as a source of energy can help Mali to continue to meet its energy needs without accelerating the rate of desertification through deforestation. Additionally, recycling wastewater to irrigate land away from the Niger river, which flows through the entirety of Mali. This tactic has been used by Israel — another desert nation — which recycles half of its wastewater.
Ultimately, combatting hunger in Mali comes down to one short-term and one long-term solution, both of which are equally urgent and vital. In the immediate future, Bamako must increase the political representation of and investment in minority groups in the country’s northern provinces. By stemming these issues and reducing conflict in the north, Mali can begin to receive life-saving food and water aid to those trapped in the region. In the long term, engaging in more environmentally sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural practices can ensure food security for the future, and save thousands of lives.
– Bradley Tait