Bioversity international

Chapter 5. Surviving in the desert: the resilience of the nomadic herders Pastoralist food system of the Kel Tamasheq people in Aratène, Mali

  • Kel Tamasheq communities of Aratène village
    Region of Goundam circle, Mali
  • Aboubacrine Ag Mohamed Mitta
    Réseau des Peuples Pasteurs du Sahel-RPPS
  • Ouayara Kone
  • Ahmed Ag Hamama
  • François-Xavier Cherdo

At a glance

This study profiles the food system of the pastoralist Kel Tamasheq herder community of the Aratène village in the region of Goundam Circle of the Republic of Mali. The Kel Tamasheq community’s food system is mainly based on livestock herding. Sheep, goats, milk, butter and cheese are amongst the main food products sold by the community. The community’s diet is based on milk, dairy products and meat, together with cereals, wild edibles, vegetables, fruit and nuts. Additionally, they complement their diet with purchases made at neighbouring markets and food exchanges with other communities. The study shows that 65 percent of the food comes from local production, whilst food purchased at markets constitutes around 35 percent of the community’s diet. During transhumance, herders drink milk and eat wild edibles and ground cereal that they store in goatskins. The community noted obstacles to food security as a result of drought, loss of livestock, social and land insecurity, diseases, and low incomes that limit their access to food produce. Nevertheless, at the same time, they show their resilience and adaptation to the harsh climate by maintaining and respecting traditions related to their local food system, whilst being open to innovations.

“Animals are everything for a Kel Tamasheq. We drink their milk, we eat their meat, we use their skin, we exchange them. When the animals die, so do the Kel Tamasheq.”

Kel Tamasheq saying.
United Nations Geospatial. 2021. Map of the World. Washington, D.C., UN. [Cited 7 June 2021.]
  • Note from the editors: Tamasheq terms are mentioned using the official alphabet for Tamasheq in Mali, which was adopted in 1967 and revised in 1982.