Another post in the Farewell Mali Series – as we bid adieu to the country where we have been working on and off since 2006.
This post concentrates on all the interesting structures that we regularly saw when we were out in the field. From abandoned mud villages and crop storage huts on stilts – to the curious toadstool-shaped ant hills and ablution facilities (the Malian equivalent of a port-a-loo!) – to rickety bridges; we saw it all.
These storage huts were used for either cotton or corn crops. The stilts were presumably to ensure the crops weren’t spoiled by the rising water table during the rainy season and to keep the crop safe from marauding goats.
The ant hills were amazing structures. After each rainy season, busy ants would haul out the wet mud from their underground nest and deposit it in a layer on top, which looks as though it has the purpose of providing some shade too.
Mali’s rainy season is between June and October. Daily downpours revive dried out river beds and fill up small dams. For the rest of the year the countryside is bone dry. Out in the sticks the tracks between villages can become treacherous to our field vehicles during the rainy season – so we tend to halt work for these few months until the ground dries out a little. There is no way that these bridge structures could handle the weight of a modern vehicle, and wading the rivers is definitely not advisable. The locals manage to get around on donkey carts much more effectively and the bridges bear their weight with comparative ease.
They do need annual rebuilding though, much like anything else made of mud.
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