The various articles I've read on the situation range in opinions but three main constants that appear in most articles are the following tenets:
2) Islamist Groups
3) French military
In an inland landlocked desert region, it's not surprising that famines can occur. When a drought hits...it hits hard.
So, we know off the bat that this is a very desperate situation. Starvation is real and is happening there. Hungry people do what they can to get food. Fact is, it is a very desperate situation over there.
Historically, Islam spread its mentally suppressive claws from the Ottoman Empire into North Africa (Egypt) and even got lower into the belief systems of other Northern Africans regions such as Algeria and Mali.
Islam and similar religions (Christianity and Jewish) were built on keeping people as dumb as possible. They were built on stopping people from asking questions and about believing what you are told to believe.
When dealing with a religion as dumb as Islam, believers are not allowed to question "god" or even say his name or draw him. Can you imagine if they did openly think about their religion instead of forcing themselves to believe in it?
Take a section from Quran say about...the Buraq. The "Buraq" was a human-faced donkey who flew Mohammed around town and even to heaven. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buraq)
If any rational person heard that story, about some dude flying to heaven on a human-faced donkey...they'd think it was fucked up and stupid, but not Muslims. Why? Because they don't question things like that...they just believe it as fact without even having two rational thoughts about it.
The Islamist groups in Mali, according to this article in the Guardian, (http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2013/jan/15/mali-music-ban-islamists-crushing), are even trying to ban music. That's a little much, even by whacky Muslim standards.
France has uranium mines in the region (and I think British Petro has some oil field there too), so it is in their concern now that there's something going on in Mali. They may pretend it's a "humanitarian" thing that they are sending troops but they don't care about the famine...they care about Areva Corp's uranium mines.
There's opinions on the net that the impact and danger of the Islamist groups is being exaggerated so France can justify their troop presence. Personally, I think the Islamist threat is very real, but the French troops will do nothing about the famine or real problems in Mali...they only want to halt the advance of the repressive Islamists to secure their uranium mines interest.
The minimum wage in Mali is a staggering $1 per hour. Areva makes a lot of profit off the people in Mali with their uranium mines (which obviously is not running at international safety standards either and is causing a great deal of ecological damage).
Basically, there's 3 real problems in Mali:
1) Lack of food due to the drought
2) A mentally suppressive wave of Islam spreading like a bad flu
3) France and Areva taking advantage of a desperate situation for their own monetary benefit.
Those are the three problems that need to be solved it seems.