West Africa Cultural Farm Exchange

Farm Visit: During a week of Wisconsin’s -10° F weather we enjoyed a visitor from Bamako, Mali, West Africa. Drissa visited Wisconsin to learn how to produce value added meat products and to work with a chef as part of the Common Pastures project. Although we generally have lambs and kids in the spring a few ewes decided to have their lambs early and were born the same day Drissa arrived. Our winters are quite different from Mali’s hot climate, which averages between 75° and 90°F all year. The necessity to prevent newborn lambs, wet with birthing fluids, from freezing was new to him. The hour old twins are snug and warm but winter births are a challenge that we try to avoid.

Newborn twin lambs
Newborn twin lambs

Drissa was born to a tribe, the Peuhl, a Fulani people known for their livestock skill. The Fulani are traditionally a nomadic, pastoralist, trading people who in the past herded livestock across an area larger than the continental United States. Due to extended droughts, increasing terrorist activity, forced settlement, and developers, the nomadic lifestyle is rapidly being replaced by small village and urban living.

Children tending sheep and goats in Mali
Village children tending sheep and goats in a settlement north of Bamako, Mali.

Drissa left school in the 5th grade to earn money walking sheep and goats to villages from the live animal market in Bamako. He was paid a small commission on every sale. Even at this young age he saved his money to purchase livestock to build his future. Due to economic changes in Mali he found he needed to support himself doing a variety of jobs such as welding, bus driving, and small food businesses instead.

Farm visitor with goat kid
Drissa, visiting from Bamako with young goat

His interest in food inspired him to create an innovative restaurant that blends fresh locally grown ingredients with a contemporary, American-Malian menu. His entrepreneur and marketplace experience served him well. He designed and fabricated the Bamkao Barbeque restaurant’s grill and smokers. But he still dreams of having livestock, perhaps on a small farm to provide meat for his restaurant. He visited Wisconsin to expand on his food knowledge base.

Bamako Barbeque
Bamako Barbeque

Stop by next time you travel to Bamako, Mali. Never heard of Mali? Home of the famous Timbuktu, gold, salt, and spice trading routes.