At the entrances to the town of Sikasso, it is not uncommon to meet peasant women, one behind the other, on their heads the bundle of kitchen firewood they come to cash on the roadsides or in the markets of neighborhoods to support their families. Their whole life is devoted to the service of their household.
They come from the 28 villages of the urban commune of Sikasso, located about twenty kilometers around. The city of Sikasso counts 400 000individuals distributed in 15 districts and 2 shantytowns.
Married for the most part, these women seek the means of their survival. Their dust-covered feet appear as if walking was what they knew best, both overwhelmed by the distance and the rays of the sun.
The women we have seen and met accept really low prices. One cannot help but take a look at the poverty that characterizes them, because they make little money from the effort. With their head loaded, most often a bundle of wood topped with a basket containing picking products or “all that a woman in the bush can sell well”.
This daily movement of women in rural areas has been going on for decades. Several generations lived through it. Later in the day, these vendors of firewood who come from several tens of kilometers practice a trade from long before our country’s independence, the “barter market” where tobacco, cotton fabrics and shea butter were in high demand by Arab Maghreb traders and white missionaries.
Those that are seen today on the market are somewhat the heirs of those ancient times in the Kénédougou. They continue to supply the city with shea butter, potassium, fresh or dried leaves going into the preparation of the sauces. They also bring mangoes and bananas from the village plantations. Their products are much cheaper than those usually exposed on the central market place.
These women appear to carry a mission at the end of which they await a justified answer against the harsh reality of our time. During the cold season, they are less visible on the roads because the rural works are there requiring attention.
Traders who are a little bit spiteful, witnesses of history too, these rural women are a fringe of the informal sector. Perhaps tomorrow a development program will come that will take into account the reality of their suffering and relieve them somewhat of the heavy burden that constitutes their lives.