Sunday, November 27, 2011

Farming in Burkina Faso

Raising Animals
In America, if you are raising livestock, you put a fence around your pasture and turn your sheep or cattle out to graze. Here, in the time between harvesting and planting, you just turn them out in the morning and hope they find their way home at night. I think the way you make coming home more likely is that you give them some grain or other food each evening and they know there will be a treat when they arrive a night. When people start planting, you are supposed to tether your animals in some way when you put them out to graze, and to do it in such a way that they do not eat other people’s crops. If you look closely, you may be able to see the rope holding these sheep to the bush.

There is a person who is responsible for deciding when it is time to tether the animals. This is announced to the villagers by a griot or singer who acts something like a town crier from the old days in Europe. On the day you are supposed to start tying up your animals, he goes around the marché delivering the message. Even then, some people do not respect the message and some people assign one of their children to guard the field from the animals. In the fall, after the harvest, the griot sings out the news again, saying it is now fine to let your animals roam free. If you are late getting in your harvest, too bad for you!

The cycle of planting and harvesting

I now have pictures of the whole cycle of raising grain. First, here are some folks preparing the soil the old way, with dabas, small hand-held hoes.

If you had a good harvest last year, maybe you could buy a mule and a plow to make things easier this year.

As the millet grows, at first it looks a lot like corn, with the tassel. The tassle is actually the part that turns into grain.

When it is ripe, it is so heavy it makes the stalks bend over.

People cut off the part with the grain, by hand, and then cut down the stalks. When that are finished, you can actually see your neighbors' buildings, that have been hidden behind the grain for several months.

People take the stalks they have cut down to their homes and store them to feed to the animals during the dry season.

Because this looks like it will be an especially bad year, with the lack of rain and poor harvest, people are stocking up as much fodder as they can. They store it on top of structures like you see below. It not only stores the fodder, but provides shade for the animals.

It starts out looking like this:

Than you add as much as you can. Not quite like a barn hay loft, but the same idea

This picture is quite hazy because the farmer was burnign the stubble that was left after the stalks were harvested.


After the chief of the land gives the word, by way of the griot singing in the market, people can let their animals range free. People with cattle usually have people (African cow boys) walking along with the cows to keep them together and to make sure they do not wander off. I suppose the cattle contribute fertilized in return for what they eat in the fields.

Smaller animals, like sheep, goats, and pigs, are just allowed to roam free. They generally come home at night, but sometimes people have to go out looking for them when it is getting dark. Unfortunately, as I have said before, there are bad people everywhere, and sometimes people will grab a goat or sheep that does not belong to them and take it to market to sell. Chickens and guinea hens wander around freely all year. They are also vulnerable to thieves grabbing them and selling them. Just one more photo. This is another crop a lot of people raise, peanuts. They are eaten raw, boiled, or roasted. I prefer the roasted by far, although I guess they are more work to prepare.

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