Mallam

Hello, my name is Mallam (MAH-laum). This means teacher in our Hausa language. I have this name because I am the village Imam – a teacher of the Islam religion. Most of the people in our village are Muslim, followers of Islam. Muslim men are allowed more than one wife. I have two wives and 10 children.

When I was young

Collecting water in our village is considered work for women and girls. But I still remember when there was only one well. Many people, including our nomad neighbours used the well. Sometimes the women slept overnight at the well, to keep their place in the queue.

I didn't go to school, like Abida and Noura do. But I did learn to read and write passages in Arabic from the Koran, Islam's holy scriptures. To become a 'man', as a teenage boy I had to recite lengthy passages of the Koran before a gathering of men.

Family life

Mallam relaxing over a meal
Mallam relaxing over a meal

As the village Iman I teach the Koran to the people of my village and in other villages in the area. My wives take good care of my children and me, whether I am here, or away visiting another village.

We live together in a compound, enclosed by walls. Several sleeping huts and a kitchen hut, surround a central courtyard, which we share with our animals. Our family meal times are spent sitting around the courtyard fire, except in the rainy season when we take shelter. We enjoy talking about the day's activities together.

Making a living

I am a farmer. Our main crop is millet (a cereal like wheat) but I also grow maize, groundnuts (peanuts) and some vegetables. Our farm is seven acres in size and two kilometres from the house. We plant our crops after the first rains, late May or early June. We rely on what we grow to survive, so a good harvest in September is important. This food must last until the next rainy season when crops can grow again.

This is a tough place to farm. If the rainy season doesn't bring enough rain, the crops won't grow; too much rain washes the crops away. Grasshoppers, locusts, birds and rodents also compete for our crops.

Mallam meets with cereal bank committee members
Mallam meets with cereal bank committee members

Future dreams

Life has changed in the village since I was young. But I want to see more improvements. I am a member of the water committee. We educate people on how to keep the water safe and use it wisely. I am also a committee member for the cereal bank. This provides food at a reasonable price during times of shortage. We also want a health clinic in the village. The closest one is four hours walk away – too far when you are sick.

Find out more about my children, Abida and Noura, or my wife Halima.