Mali's "Attics" -- Not Like Your Grandmother's Attic!

By Alou Doumbia, Field Director

Grain and peanut “attics” keep crops safe and dry in Mali villages.

Grain and peanut “attics” keep crops safe and dry in Mali villages.

The attic is a small building or hut built in the courtyard of a house by the farmer to keep their harvest. Mali is a country in which 80% of the population is involved in farming. The rural areas are composed of hamlets focused on crop growing or livestock breeding and hamlets of habitation, these hamlets form the villages. The crop species grown in Mali are varied and are: cereals (millet, rice, bean, fonio, maize, and groundnut). These crops constitute the main food base of Malians. Cotton is cultivated for industrial purposes for export.

After harvesting, farmers store the grains in the different granaries; each species is stored in an appropriate “attic” (see photo). Women also have their own attic because they grow peanuts to complement their meals as a condiment. Every day, the head of the family enters an attic with a basket to measure the amount of grain to be given to the cook. In the villages, the daily menu always includes "To" – a kind of dish made with the millet flour accompanied by sauce prepared either with dried okra or slimy Baobab leaf.

In villages, rice is prepared with peanut sauce at parties or at the reception of foreigners who come from the city. The peanut attic usually belongs to women but in addition to the use in sauce, peanut is used to chase hunger before meals. Peanut also makes it possible to earn money in the weekly markets. When a woman goes into a weekly market of a neighboring village, she enters her peanut loft to take a quantity she will sell to in order to get some extra, special condiments for the week, such as dried fish, salt, chilli, dried Baobab leaves. Men give no money to their wives to pay for the condiment of the week. If men are hungry at night, they sneak to go into the attic of women and take a little peanut to consume it. The peanut loft is the most frequented of all in the day because at the welcome of foreigners, we take peanuts, when the talks come late at night, we take peanuts, and when we go to the market, we take peanuts.