When the market is too expensive

August 13, 2012
by 
Kelly Di Domenico, Communications Officer
Karya Sagare and her granddaughter at a subsidized food sale

Karya Sagare’s granddaughter is sticking close to the skirt of her grandmother. Despite the heat, she is wearing a sweater with a hood that covers her head. Her eyes are listless as she quietly follows her grandmother through a church courtyard Karya explains that her granddaughter is not feeling well. She brought her to the doctor once, but can’t afford to bring her again. The trip to the doctor also ate into what little money Karya had put aside to purchase food for her family, which includes four children and two grandchildren. And with little food to go around, it is making her granddaughter’s recovery all the more difficult.

“It is unimaginable trying to feed my family,” she says. Karya is a widow and must support her family on her own. To make ends meet, she buys peanuts and turns it into paste, which she then re-sells on the market. She has to buy the peanuts on credit so by the time she pays off her debts she has little left over. “I don’t arrive to save much money,” she explains. Like most peasants in the region, a poor rainy season last year has left her granary empty. There is food available for purchase at the market, but who can afford it? Bags of rice, maize and millet have more than doubled, with prices continuing to rise as supplies go down.

Karya is grateful that Caritas Mali is organizing a subsidized sale of food staples in her village. Whereas a 100 kg bag of rice at the market can cost as much as $75 at the market, Karya will be able to purchase a bag for $40 at the sale. A bag of maize will cost $25 rather than $40. It is a substantial saving at a time when every penny counts. For Karya, this means she will have a bit of money to hire some help to plant her field in preparation for the coming harvest. As her and her son load their cart with their purchases, a full meal on the horizon, she tells me her hope for the next harvest: “That it will be so abundant that I can walk on it and we can eat till we feel no hunger.” A dream that is a little easier to believe in after today.