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Appendix: Complaints of the rice-growers of San (Mali)

Report on the alarming situation in field B of San-West

Report on the alarming situation in field B of San-West

We, rice-growers of San, have the honour to report as follows:

Since the 1971-72 agricultural season, we have been suffering from drought, in the framework of rice-growing, a phenomenon which is by no means peculiar to our cercle. Happily our cries of alarm were heard by the authorities at all levels. Thus, the government laid out the San-West plain in two fields, A and B. and established a pumping system there, a sensational occurrence which was joyfully welcomed at the time by all the rice-growers. This privileged situation gave us the occasion to hold several general meetings during which numerous expressions of gratitude and thanks were addressed to the CMLN and the government. And we were already thinking that in no time at all most of our hopes would be realized. But alas! Our enthusiasm soon gave way to discouragement, a situation brought about by the procedure for working the irrigated perimeter. In fact, the conditions demanded by Operation Rice did not allow us, despite three years of strenuous efforts, to obtain the grain necessary for the annual subsistence of our families. Thus, in field A, the quota due is 900 kg. of paddy rice per plot of 1.5 ha., or 600 kg. per ha. In B. it is 400 kg./ha. In addition, we commercialize: field A, 800 kg./ha. This means that virtually the entire harvest of the field goes for the quota due or commercialization. The little that is left over, two, three, four, five or six sacks of paddy, goes to the rice-grower. Of course, he receives a small sum (after the value of all the credits that he has enjoyed from Operation Rice - fertilizer, loan of the seeder, etc. - have been deducted), and collects it sulking impotently. But while this peasant possesses at least 3 hectares in field B. it is the whole harvest of field A that is commercialized.

As for field B. where production is lower because of the ageing of the soil and the presence of diga [a weed], the peasant often pays the whole or the balance of his quota in kind, often borrowed, a phenomenon which in our opinion seems to contradict the objectives of the CMLN and the government, whose aim is to help the peasantry. However, during the general meetings we have more than once denounced this practice which starves and impoverishes us more each year, but the officials responsible for Operation Rice have always taken refuge behind the assertion that 'the demands imposed on rice-growers are the instructions we receive from our leaders.' And the peasants' response has always been to point out to the competent authorities the evil character of such a practice. This misunderstanding provoked such discontent that the rice-growers suggested to the officials of Operation Rice: 'If our complaints are not examined, it would be better to stop convening general meetings, and simply publish decisions through public notices.'

To calm people down, we were promised that caterpillar tractors would be brought in, five (5) in number, to fight against the diga, and that this would take place by the end of the 1977-78 season. Not being sure that the said machines would come, we suggested doing the low water ploughing with a plough as we usually did, but we constantly met with the refusal of the Field Leader who even threatened peasants who might persist in doing so. And all folded their arms and waited for the end of the ploughing that was supposed to be done by the caterpillar tractors. Unfortunately, we received only two machines which, as at 5 April 1978, had not ploughed more than 100 out of 700 ha. Faced with their inability to keep their promise, the Operation Rice officials ordered what they had always rejected, that is, using the plough. Now, at this time, the state of the soil was such that even the tractor had difficulty in doing effective ploughing, and how much more so the plough. The general meeting stressed that responsibility for this unhappy situation fell wholly on the cadres of Operation Rice.

The tornado of 28 April 1978, which saw 132 mm. of rainfall, made the diga grow but our oxen were so weakened by the meagre pasturage that we could not continue with the ploughing.

At the general meeting on 8 June 1978, we were asked to plough and sow fields A and B where the caterpillar tractor had carried out ploughing between 15 and 30 June. All the farmers in field A carried out their work with care since low water ploughing had been done there. But in B. despite all our goodwill and all the efforts made, the state of the soil did not allow us to record the same results. Nevertheless, the few peasants who had been able to plough some land did not unfortunately obtain the seeds they had asked for. They had to face new demands from the Field Leader which were: to complete entirely the ploughing and weeding in order to be able to claim the seeds that we were to buy; to sow all the ploughed areas in drills, contrary to the practice of broadcast sowing that we had previously applied.

Despite the insistence of the rice-growers, the Field Leader remained deaf to every explanation trying to make him see reason. Thus, the long period between 28 April and 25 June should have enabled a large number of peasants to replough and sow if not all, at least 7510 of field B if low-water ploughing with the plough had been authorized from the outset.

To explain his demands, the Field Leader dared to claim that he was worried that the rice farmers would consume the seed if it was distributed to them before the end of the weeding. This concern on the part of the Field Leader, expressed out loud, provoked indignation among the peasants at the general meeting on 21 July 1978.

In fact, the said general meeting was held when Operation Rice, completely thrown out of gear by the unfortunate consequences of his obstinacy, made the administrative and municipal authorities aware of the scale of the disaster due to the rains which had wholly submerged field B. making it thus uncultivable for the current season. Here is a breakdown of the rainfall recorded during the period concerned:

3 July 35.2 mm.
8 July 28.4 mm.
11 July 60.3 mm.
14 July 53.8 mm.
15 July 6.2 mm.
18 July 23.8 mm.
19 July 0.3 mm.
23 July 21.6 mm.
26 July trace
28 July 33.8 mm.
29 July 9.5 mm.
30 July 0.9 mm.
31 July 15.9 mm.
1 Aug 2.9 mm.
2 Aug 23.7 mm.
3 Aug 3.8 mm.
8 Aug 3.3 mm.
11 Aug 27.2 mm.
Total 350.0 mm.

To try and make up for their mistakes, we were advised during the general meeting of 21 July 1978 to employ every possible means to do something. And to save face recourse was had to the following procedure: hurried distribution of seeds, a system Operation Rice had previously condemned; permission to use broadcast sowing.

So everybody went to work with more ardour. But no one can perform the impossible. The height of the grass and the amount of water and mud in which we were slopping around discouraged even the most determined. That is why we are now launching an urgent appeal to all the local, regional and national authorities to examine with special attention the situation of field B of San-West, which we consider a disaster. We have no food left from the 1977-78 harvest and no longer expect anything from the current season. We are therefore putting all our hope in the CMLN and the Government to come and help us.

Given all the above, we find ourselves obliged to submit for examination by the authorities some of the complaints that we deem urgent:

(1) We urgently request that the population be supplied with cereals and that seeds be set aside for the next season.

(2) We ask for the laying out in the near future of lower field A which, in our view, could be as profitable as the previous one.

(3) We recommend that an effective struggle be waged against diga in field B with a view to making it worth sowing, and that this should be done immediately the waters recede.

(4) We draw the attention of the competent authorities to the fact that virtually all our harvest is taken up with the quota, threshing costs and commercialization, and we ask that these burdens be lightened.

Our aim is to alert all the authorities so that they help us to save our sinking boat.

Copies to:

CMLN (5)
Prime Minister (2)
Min. Rural Dev. (1)
Sec. of State for Industry (1)
Regional Governor (1)
Commandant de cercle, San (2)
San Branch UDPM Bureau (2)
Mayor Commune San (2)
Operation Rice San (1)
Archives of Board of Management (1)

Chairman of the Session
Allay Daou

Secretary of the Session
Karamoko Traore

San, 15 August 1978

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