The Dogon lands are in the Mopti Region, considered one of the poorest areas of Mali due to its fragile socio-environmental ecosystem. Shallots began to be cultivated in the precolonial period and their importance grew along with their use for social, non-food purposes: they were used as currency, included in propitiatory and magic rites and were a basic ingredient in medicinal preparations. Shallots are cultivated around barrages (small dams) or at natural springs and are grown in three cycles.
The first begins in September: harvesting is in November-December and the shallots are sold fresh or transformed into pellets. The method consists in grinding the onions with a large pestle in stone mortars: the paste is made into pellets, dried and sold on the local market.
The second cycle begins in October-November, harvesting is between February and April, depending on the availability of water, and the product is used as seed or transformed using one of two methods. One method involves grinding the shallots, either in a mortar or on bare rock and leaving the paste to dry in the sun. Another method involves cleaning the bulbs, washing and cutting into slices of about 3 mm, which are then placed on lattices to dry for a period of 7 to 15 days. Slices of dry shallot gained rapid popularity among the public: they keep for a long time and maintain their nutritional properties. The third cycle begins in January-February, harvesting takes place in May and is exclusively for producing seed.
The preservation methods for fresh shallots are traditional and are fairly basic; seeds are kept in a corner of the house or in barns used for millet. At present masonry barns are being increasingly used: they are more suitable as they protect the seeds from water, insects and rodents.
Unlike the onions which are usually grown by individuals, transformation of the shallots is group work. Associations of transformers, with their own statute and internal rules, include members of the village, a town neighborhood or a family. The equipment needed for transformation (driers, slicers, accessories) are collectively owned.
Nowadays, due to a lack of water, the Dogon producers do not always manage to complete the third cycle intended to produce seeds for the next year. So when it is time to sow they have to incur debt to buy new seeds from external markets and are often forced to grow a different variety (a larger onion with less pronounced flavor).
The native variety of shallot therefore risks losing its specificity.
The Dogon shallot is traditionally produced in the Dogon lands in the Mopti region and comprise three large areas of Mali: Plateau, Plaine and Falesia.