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twenty four year old natasha lives with her two children on a small plot of land in rural burkina faso, which she uses to cultivate millet. a staple of their diet, the millet is not nutritionally dense, which leads to malnutrition, and often runs out before the next harvest. this forces natasha, with her youngest in tow, to scavenge for firewood and walk it to the nearest town a dozen miles away, where she then sells it and buys a little extra food and medicine.

although women in burkina faso provide more than half of the nation’s agricultural labour, they own less than a fifth of the land. women are viewed less as “owners of land” and more as “owners of crops”, and customary rural laws, which tend to trump any written legal protection, mean their land can be arbitrarily taken away. marriage offers some protection, but natasha has not heard from her husband since he left to find work in senegal over a year ago, and a dissolution of the marriage would mean certain land forfeiture.

despite women in the country being more productive with their land than men, they are further marginalized by banking restrictions; since women are not considered landowners, they are unable to provide the collateral needed to secure a loan, and are consequently forced to accept extremely high interest rates which further trap them in poverty.

these photos are from jessica dimmock’s “a mother’s devotion,” done in collaboration with médecins sans frontières for the documentary project, starved for attention, which attempts to reframe the issue of global malnutrition away from the cliched images of helpless victim.

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