The following pictures and narratives are viewed by scrolling down the page (right scroll bar) and give you some idea about the conditions in Mali and the Nine Villages area in Mali. While the Nine Villages area is thought of as being in the "north east" of Mali, in this case, the Nine Villages area is in the north east of the populated area of Mali; the northern two thirds of Mali is actually part of the Sahara Desert and very sparsely populated.



The Nine Village area is mostly hot and dry, except in the summer rainy season. Located in north-east Mali (but south of the Sahara Desert), the villages are 20 miles off the nearest paved road, down a dirt path. Outside of the villages, it is hard to tell if anyone is using the land, though some areas are clearly being farmed by villagers who stay out there in huts when they are cultivating—almost like shepherds for the land.


Houses are made of mud and straw bricks and stucco and tightly grouped in the village. They often consist of a couple of rooms shared between 6 to 9 family members. Many houses have small yards and most cooking and household chores take place outdoors. There is no electricity in the villages—though it is very dark at night, activity carries on.

Niger River

Several of the villages are near the floodplains of the Niger river, which provides a source of fish, as well as a place for washing dishes and clothes. Many women will walk a mile to the river to clean pots and pans—and carry them in style. Water-related diseases are always a concern.


We are always greeted by a polite and curious gathering of what seems to be the entire village! Nine Villages uses these meetings for discussions with the villagers on their hopes for improvement. Because the Nine Villages projects depend on the villagers to be successful, we make sure the need, and excitement for, these projects comes first from the people themselves.

Gatherings take place outdoors, usually under a tree for shade, and with most participants sitting on mats, as they do in their homes.


The kids of Borisome enthusiastically greet the camera. It is easy to get them to smile and they love to have their picture taken. The children of this village appear healthier than in some other places we visited—perhaps they have more food. Malnourishment, malaria, and diarrhea are common health issues for children. But there are always kids around the village, and they seem to be the most eager and curious to greet us.


A garden on the outskirts of Mali’s capital, Bamako, being worked intensively with hand-dug wells. In the Nine Villages area, subsistence farmers grow primarily dry-land rice and millet, with fish and cattle also providing food. Farmers seem to rely mostly on the rainy season to irrigate their crops. The women are beginning to maintain gardens for variety of diet and extra income.


Water sources are often a difficulty. Wells dry up or have broken pumps, and can become contaminated. Many women and children will carry water quite a distance back from the communal sources.


Markets take place in a different town every day of the week, so villagers tend to go to market once a week, or send someone from the village to buy food. Also for sale: fabrics, pots and pans, pliers, wood and charcoal. The nine villages are off the beaten path, so they are fairly self-sufficient and don’t rely on markets too heavily, nor do they have much to trade or sell.


This is an abandoned schoolhouse in the south of Mali—some of the village children now attend school in the next village. Many of the nine villages do not have schools—children would need to go to the central village, Sendegue, to attend primary school. Beyond primary school, children must board in a city away from the villages. Few parents have the means to cover the tuition, transportation, and living expenses for their children to go away for high school.

Chicken Gift to Dean - Quite an honor!

Malians have a tradition of generously feeding guests. We have received chickens and a goat as presents, and been fed chicken and lamb, though rural Malians themselves eat almost exclusively rice, millet, potatoes and other vegetables. Here Dean is holding a freshly-gifted chicken—a generous present.

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