Hello all! I am back in Mali to do research for my Master's thesis. It has been so wonderful to be back here in Mali with all of its craziness and joyfulness. Part of my work was in my old Peace Corps village of Kissa, and it was kind of a dream to be back, chatting with all my old friends, and hiking through all the old forests and fields I used to explore. I have been resolute about taking lots of pictures this time, as I did not take nearly enough during my Peace Corps stay. So here are some of the more interesting and illustrative pictures.
This is Toh, pretty much the national dish. You take a handfull of the goop, made from millet or corn flour and kind of textured like polenta, and then you dip it into one of the bowls of sauce. The sauce is made from combinations of okra, peanutbutter, tomatoes and hot peppers. With a good sauce, Toh can be delicious, and I thoroughly missed it while I was away.
This is how Malians do tea: with two shot-sized glasses, two little tea pots, and a lot of sugar! The tea is boiled down into a thick, syrupy shot, and one round of tea can provide about 3 to 6 people with a sip. Usually there are 2 or 3 rounds, taking place over the course of a conversation-filled hour. There is lots of pouring the tea back and forth, to thoroughly mix it in and to cool it off.
Here is a hunter playing a hunters-guitar (donsongoni). There was a big celebration in Kolondieba for Malian independence day, and lots of hunters came in traditional garb with guns and musical instruments. I was invited to sit up with the Mayor, and the hunter was going around and singing to each person so that they would give him some money. He came straight to me, figuring the American would have the most money. I snapped some pictures and gave him some change. You put it directly in the guitar, actually, and the hunter rattles it around and makes it a part of the instrument.
Here's an interesting picture: a satellite dish, surrounded by Mango trees, mud huts and thatch roofs. I was out for a walk and I came across this bugu-da, a household out in the middle of nowhere. Often people will choose to live out here because of the virgin soil and empty space, which helps to grow more productive crops and raise more cattle. I've noticed that these people tend to be more wealthy, as you can see that this particular farmer, Lassina Kone, was able to buy a satellite dish and a color TV! Lassina was very friendly and curious about America, and offered me some yams to take with me.
This is one of my favorite pictures of one of my best friends, Adama. He is both very curious and very informed about the world, and loves when I get National Geographic magazines sent from home. Here, he is using an inflatable globe that I brought to explain to some people how it is the earth that moves, and not the sun. This is actually a pretty controversial subject in my village, but luckily Adama and his new globe should help settle the debate.
I got a grant from the West African Research Association to look at malnutrition in Mali, and how it is correlated with other factors like cotton production and environmental degradation. I used a map that I published before on this blog to apply for the grant, and I think it explains a lot of the context of my research. I will be doing work in three different villages, and for each village I will be doing household surveys, as well as forest and land cover surveys. The idea is to see if healthy forests and certain livelihood strategies (like growing cotton) have any significant relationship with patterns of malnutrition. Here are some picture from the research.
Collecting a list of all of the household heads' names from the village secretary, Lassina (black hat). I randomly picked from the list to determine which households to interview. Also pictured are my good friend Oumar, who worked with my during my Peace Corps service, as well as my host father Amadou, in the blue shirt. Lassina and Oumar were both incredibly helpful when I showed up and explained what I had to do.
Here are some shots of me conducting interviews. They were taken by Oumar, who really enjoys using the camera!
This is me measuring Mid-Upper Arm Circumference, a good indicator of a child's overall health. For all the children in each study household, I have to measure their arms. Often they are terrified, having never seen a white person before. To make the experience less traumatic I give them candy. Also, notice in this picture, someone in the background wearing a shirt that says something in English. There is a 0% chance she knows what that shirt says.
Finally, I give the kids candy. Actually, these are those vitamin-fortified candies you can get in America. If the kids have really skinny arms, I give their moms a couple, and tell her to feed the child one a day.
So that's my research so far! I can't wait to start the forest surveys.