Mariam Koné is a writer for Farm Radio Weekly. Recently, she met three farmers in Mali and captured their stories of how radio is helping them overcome a major challenge that has threatened their crops. The following is one interview.
Noé Diarra harvested nothing from his sorghum field last year. The reason was striga. He has vowed “revenge” against striga for all the evil that the weed has done to him. How? Let’s hear his story to find out:
My name is Noé Diarra. I am a millet and sorghum producer in the village of Dobwo, which is in the rural community of Bénena, in Tomianian circle [eastern Mali]. In recent years, I’ve grown concerned. By some phenomenon, my harvests have dwindled more and more. Last year, I did not harvest anything. I searched every corner of my field for millet or sorghum.
“Upon the very first rain, my son plowed the field. I advised him to wait for another rain for the soil to become moist, and, as God would have it, it rained two weeks later. It was the beginning of last June and my son and his family planted sorghum. The millet was sprouting extraordinarily well. I was truly happy. Our sorghum field had the best leaves in the village. “Then suddenly the rains started to slow. Our joy was very short lived as, to our great surprise; we found that the millet plants were starting to yellow. In 15 days, all the millet plants had turned yellow, leaving us with a field that was empty and devastated. I couldn’t understand it. Was this because the rain was scarce in a month that is normally very rainy (that is to say August)? I thought that a bad spell had been cast upon my field. The field had never floundered like this before. “Some of my neighbours told me that it was striga. I didn’t really believe it because this plant has always been my companion. I blamed my son, because he didn’t keep track of the field after planting (even though that task usually falls to me).
One fine morning in October 2011, I heard over the airwaves of Radio Moutian that there was a way to get rid of striga. Really, I thought I was dreaming. The guest was Pierre Théra, my nephew who I know very well through the l’Union des Agriculteurs du Cercle de Tomianian [local farmers’ union], and he convinced me. I know this boy will never lie.
“How is it that I didn’t learn about this in time? If we had applied the new farming techniques that Pierre described, I’m sure I wouldn’t be here telling you about my misadventure. What I mean to say is, all the efforts that my family put forward this year failed. I am certainly not the only one to complain about the evils of this cursed weed. Maybe my field was hit worse than others. If not, this plant has taken over everything. For me, striga is a fatal disease. For me, the only remedy is to rip it out. On top of that, I’m going to burn my field this year.
At the farmers’ union, I was told to prepare myself for next year, as the seeds will be available in February. I swear that I, Noé Diarra, will sow my field with [good quality seeds] and intercrop legumes. Yes, I will avenge my field with the weapons that Radio Moutian has given us. Indeed, if it weren’t for the insistence of the radio, I wouldn’t believe that striga is the problem.
To read a story based on Mariam Koné’s other two interviews, click here.