The Bambara

Between the burning sands of the Sahara and the tropical forests of central Africa lie the arid plains of the Niger River basin, home to the Bambara people. Centuries of commerce and empire have created a deep culture of hospitality. Whether rich or poor, the Bambara embrace the honor of being a host and giving their best to a stranger, which often includes a glass of specially prepared tea. Though proud descendents of the Bambara kings of the Ségou Empire, today they live in a changing world, trapped between an illustrious past and an uncertain future. Successive waves of invasion--from Muslim jihadists, to French colonialists, to western scientific ideas--have left a disorienting kaleidoscope of ideas, movements, and ideologies. They are now left with few resources with which to address the dire problems facing their home country of Mali. Drought, political instability, religious fundamentalism, lack of adequate health care, and crippling poverty threaten to destroy the very fiber of Bambara society.

·      About 5.5 million Bambara remain, most in Mali and others throughout West Africa

·      Drought and ecological problems impede traditional farming of millet and sorghum

·      Tensions in Mali’s northern region have spilled over into central Mali, threatening to drive a wedge between the Bambara and their neighboring ethnic groups and creating fertile ground for recruiting to radical ideologies.

·      Health care systems are resource-poor, mistrusted, and underutilized - people suffer and die from preventable or treatable illnesses

What One Person Can Do...

·      Make a contribution to health development work in Mali

·      Consider teaching a short course on a particular nursing skill in Mali in conjunction with workers there

·      Donate equipment, such as stethoscopes, mercury or digital thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, fetoscopes and Pinard horns, powderless exam gloves, lab coats, clip boards, or other items