Sunday, 13 June 2010
Last Sunday I went with some neighbours out into the deep countryside, perhaps 30km from Bobo, to 'help' with sowing maize out in the fields. I wasn't much help - I did sow a few seeds, but I quickly got blisters on my office softy hands - long time since I did much digging! However I think I provided quite a lot of entertainment value, so that was probably some help in its own way - something new to talk about, anyway.
I was invited by a woman from a shop on our street; the family has at least one other shop, and a decent vehicle, and seem relatively affluent. As well as running businesses in the town, they - the extended family - are in the process of carving out fields, deep in the countryside, not even in or near a village, as far as I can see - from what looks like virgin woodland. Its a long and hard process, they are ambitious, and it looks like it will take years to do all they plan. There are a few animals - hens, goats and a small herd of cattle - and there is a farmhand who lives out there all the time - with family I think.
My friend is the second wife of what appears to be the head of the family - she is out at work most days; I guess that the first wife, her co-spouse, who she also describes as her sister, and with whom she seems to be on very friendly terms, takes overall charge of the house and domestic matters. My friend speaks good french, her co-spouse does not - so I reckon there is quite a difference in education. Polygamy is common here - more of that another time.
The first wife has two children, my friend one baby - all of whom are cared for in a fairly communal manner. The work party must have numbered about 25, including children. Lines were marked out for sowing, and seeds planted using simple hoe/adze like tools. The planting was mostly women's work, the men were mainly cutting doing the harder clearance and planting trees. Lots of hard work, all fairly good natured. None of the other women spoke much french (education again), some of the men and some of the children (boys and girls) did, so I spent quite a bit of time chatting to the children, as well as helping to mind the baby. While the work in the fields was going on, a huge meal, mainly of haricot beans and rice, was being cooked up over an open fire - and was eventually served up around midday, with the men eating in one group, the women in another, and the children moving between the groups. Then more work, before setting off home at about 4 - I had done less than anyone else, and was probably the most exhausted!