Sanitation in Mali
Access to proper sanitation and clean water is a relatively simple yet incredibly important part of protecting public health. For developing nations like Mali, it can be hard to come by. In rural areas, only 30% of people have access to clean water. This puts them at risk for diarrhea, which is responsible for one out of every nine child deaths in the world. Further, most schools do not have proper toilets for their students, and about half lack a clean water source altogether. People must undergo steps to provide safe water and improve sanitation in Mali. Luckily, some organizations, like Save the Children, are attempting to help.

Save the Children

The Save the Children Fund has been supporting kids around the world since 1919. It works to improve communities in many sectors, including healthcare, education, community development and more. Save the Children first arrived in Mali in 1987 and has been on the ground defending the country’s most vulnerable ever since.

Waterborne diseases pose a great threat to children in developing countries. One of the best ways to tackle this crisis is through proper water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) products and services. Accordingly, Save the Children has made this a center of attention in its work through the Clean Household Approach (CHA) program. The CHA program emphasizes the importance of WASH products and services and is working to reduce the risk of childhood diarrhea and sanitation in Mali.

Previous programs often looked at the issue from a communal perspective. Public resources became the focus rather than looking at what people could accomplish in each individual household. “People care for and maintain personal belongings better than communal property,” Save the Children reported. With this in mind, the CHA program directs efforts at the household level and not at the community level. Instead of providing sanitation equipment at a communal well where people draw water from, the program is making change directly in the homes where people consume the water.

The Clean Household Approach Program (CHA)

The CHA program differs from other programs with similar goals because it does not simply offer financial aid, it also uses a market-based approach. Save the Children recognizes that household sanitation commodities are not something that people tend to prioritize. Families put food and shelter above the often expensive equipment necessary to secure clean water. To circumvent this, Save the Children is making household sanitation commodities both accessible and desirable.

The CHA program provides vouchers that subsidize the cost of WASH products and services. The program typically provides vouchers after a household member attends a meeting on proper handwashing or a visit to a physician. It also uses a variety of incentives to encourage families to invest in WASH products and services. For example, a home can meet “Clean Household” status by satisfying certain criteria pertaining to proper sanitation practices. They then receive the award of a flag to note their success.

The CHA program also uses marketing strategies and social norms to try to emphasize the importance of WASH products and services. Additionally, Save the Children provides training and collaborates with local business owners to ensure that a supply of WASH products and services is always available.

WASH products and services work. The risk of diarrheal infections falls 47% with proper handwashing, 17% with better water quality and 36% with better sanitation. Through projects like the CHA program, Save the Children has been able to keep over 1 million children healthy and nourished in Mali. It continues to change lives around the world and has shown no signs of slowing down in its support for sanitation in Mali.

– Evan Driscoll
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in MaliMali has suffered from the presence of terrorist groups in its north and western regions, lethal diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis, and a coup d’etat in the past two decades. These circumstances have created a strained and ineffective healthcare system. Mali’s infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world and average doctor visits per person have been one in every three years. This is in part a result of its system’s user fees, which many in Mali cannot afford.

Free Healthcare to Address High Maternal and Child Mortality Rates

In 2019, Mali announced that it would begin offering free healthcare to pregnant mothers and children under 5. This is a monumental step forward that came after decades of adhering to a system that had barely changed since the 1960s when the country gained independence. This radical new change will benefit the healthcare system’s most vulnerable recipients and work to lower the infant mortality rates as well as the lack of citizens’ use of the healthcare services. However, the program’s success is dependent upon how effectively they can roll out the changes to avoid flooding their healthcare systems.

Besides user fees, other issues persist in Mali which put citizens at risk for disease and insufficient care. A large issue is the lack of education regarding women’s health. Mali has the third-highest fertility rate in the world, and its capital is one of the fastest-growing cities in Africa. The absence of health education leaves young women vulnerable to shorter birth intervals, lack of skilled birth attendants and female genital mutilation, which all result in Mali’s high maternal mortality rates. With an average of six children per mother, education measures that address health and family planning are necessary to address high maternal and infant mortality rates as well as alleviate poverty.

USAID Helps Tackle Infectious Diseases

Another large concern is the prevalence of infectious diseases. Mali’s degree of risk is ranked at very high for diseases like malaria, dengue fever, hepatitis A, meningitis and typhoid fever. These illnesses result from living in poverty, with a lack of clean water and adequate health services, as well as contact with animals and parasites carrying disease. As of 2018, USAID is supporting 991 health programs in regions across Mali to alleviate these health issues. Supplies such as bednets, diagnostic tests and medication are disseminated to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria.

This is very important work, that needs increased funding in order to continue spreading these life-saving services, as malaria cases reached 3.3 million in 2017 and the disease was responsible for almost a quarter of child deaths. With a larger budget and increased reach, USAID could provide Mali with the tools to create a self-sufficient healthcare system capable of tackling the maternal and infant mortality rates as well as the rampant infectious diseases.

Ellie Williams
Photo: Flickr

Livestock Fattening in Mali
Livestock has always been a crucial part of Mali’s economy. Traditional methods of cattle and other livestock fattening in Mali, though, are outdated and inefficient. In the past 20 years, the government of Mali, along with international organizations focused on development, has focused on modernizing the livestock economy of Mali with the intent of creating economic growth and prosperity for both producers and consumers.

Growth in the Livestock Industry

It is important to first define how valuable livestock is to the economy in Mali. Livestock provides over 40% of the agricultural GDP in Mali. Furthermore, 80% of all livelihoods in Mali are in the agricultural sector. Clearly, improvement in the livestock economy will supply enormous benefits to huge populations of the country.

Mali has successfully invested in the livestock economy. Between the years 2000 and 2016, the average livestock stock per 100 people in Mali was 70.9 TLU (tropical livestock units). This is over three times the median for African countries (23.44). Moreover, the gross production of livestock in Mali grew at 3.87% annually, far above the 2.2% median for African countries.

Between 2000 and 2018, the yield for cow’s milk increased by 25%. Additionally, the total output of cow’s milk increased by 185%. Similarly, goat’s milk production doubled, while sheep’s milk increased by a factor of 1.5.

The successful growth of livestock fattening in Mali stems from concerted, focused government efforts to improve the infrastructure and knowledge base of those working in the livestock industry. Additionally, international development organizations have provided both funding and know-how to help these workers.

Successful Government Programs

One program in particular has focused on improving livestock fattening in Mali. Implemented jointly by the governments of Mali and the United States, the Livestock for Growth Project (L4G) emerged with the idea of helping producers get access to microfinance loans that would allow them to modernize their livestock fattening programs.

L4G also trains local farmers in business acumen that will help their businesses thrive. By teaching producer groups things like banding together and buying supplies in bulk, introducing modern fattening methods such as creating multi-nutritional licking blocks, and explaining how to use fodder crops as future animal forage, L4G has slingshotted thousands of local livestock farmers into the modern age of agriculture.

Plenty of other agencies and programs also exist that serve livestock producers. The Ministry for Livestock and Fisheries helps traditional livestock industries through improved infrastructure and ensuring a healthy market for delivering goods to the public.

The Institute of Rural Economy is Mali’s main research institute that helps find new ways for farmers to maximize their earnings. The agricultural sector has six research centers across the country, which helps to make sure each region is given personalized, individualized attention for their specific problems.

Individual Success Stories

These nationwide, infrastructural programs are incredibly valuable, but of course, the real benefit comes in the form of individuals increasing their welfare through modernizing livestock fattening programs.

Adama Togola has sold cattle since 1985. In the past, he had no organized plan or schedule. He fed his cows in a sort of haphazard, random fashion. Then, the Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project, a World Bank initiative, taught him modernized methods of cow fattening. His newly gained knowledge contributed to his business growing immensely. After the training, the price he could sell his cows for doubled from 300,000 CAF to 600,000 CAF.

Similarly, Yissa Djiguiba fattened her sheep and goats in an outdated, traditional fashion for many years. She was a beneficiary of the previously mentioned L4G programs. L4G taught her modern fattening methods, which allowed her to raise sheep and goats to full maturity in three or four months rather than the full 12 months it took her prior. This essentially tripled or quadrupled Yissa’s income, allowing her to send her children to school, setting up her family for future success.

Mali serves as a model for other developing countries seeking to improve their agricultural infrastructure. Important modernizations in livestock fattening techniques can drastically boost the production and welfare of farmers and consumers alike.

– Evan Kuo
Photo: Flickr

Saving Lives in Mali
The words “Health can’t wait” are on the website of the Drapers Richard Kaplan foundation. This foundation helps fund the upstart Muso Health, a venture philanthropy group. The statement captures the essence of the Muso Health mission: to deliver healthcare quickly and affordably to people living in poverty. By taking a unique approach to healthcare, Muso Health is saving lives in Mali.

Muso Health uses a proactive health care model; health care workers receive training to seek out, diagnose and treat patients in local communities. Unfortunately, children can die from malaria within 48 hours of contracting it. The Muso model increases the likelihood a child will get treatment in time.

The Origin

A coalition of Americans and Malians founded Muso Health in 2005. The tragedy of child funerals moved the founders of Muso and motivated them to make health care more accessible. Therefore, they began a simple operation of volunteers, dedicated to saving lives in Mali.

Volunteers assist the communities in Mali’s capital city, Bamako. The organization has expanded since 2005; the Muso Health website boasts that it has “grown 2000-fold.” At the beginning of 2020, an additional 50 new Community Health Workers (CHWs) joined Muso Health.

Muso’s CHWs are a group of local Malians who provide in-home health care. Most CHWs are women, and Muso means “woman” in the Bambara language of Mali. Muso Health chose its name, in part, because of the common Malian expression, “If you educate a woman, you educate her family, her community and her entire country.”

The Approach

Muso is saving lives in Mali through proactive community case management. This strategy consists of three main steps. First, Community Health Workers identify and diagnose sick individuals. If possible, the workers treat the illness on the spot. If not, they refer the patient to a clinic. Therefore, Malian families do not have to seek out treatment and diagnosis.

Muso Health also addresses obstacles to healthcare, including cost. Its door-to-door service eliminates transportation fees for the patient and their family. Additionally, Muso Health removes point-of-care fees, so even the most impoverished families can receive care. Lastly, Muso helps to boost Mali’s public health sector by expanding infrastructure and training providers.

The Impact

Muso was able to visit 358,379 homes during the first quarter of 2020. From January to mid-April of 2020, it treated 92% of peri-urban patients and 67% of rural patients within 24 hours. Thankfully, these efforts seem to be paying off. Studies suggest that Muso Health is having a positive impact on Mali.

A 2018 study in BMJ Global Health shows that the areas where Muso Health operates have seen the lowest rates of child death in Sub-Saharan Africa for five consecutive years. The study demonstrated that the child mortality rate was originally at 15.5%. After Muso interventions, the study found that the child mortality rate dropped to 1.7%. In making health care free, the health care costs shifted to Muso and the Malian government. This change only costs the Malian government an extra $8 per person.

Looking Forward

Ultimately, there is a high demand for innovative health care organizations like Muso Health. According to Muso CEO and Co-founder Ari Johnson, “The World Health Organization has estimated that 100 million people every year are driven into poverty by health-care costs.”

Although larger studies are necessary to determine whether the Muso model will work on a greater scale, Muso Health has been successful in Mali. Johnson and his team have received numerous awards for their work in saving lives through innovation. These awards include the 2014 UNICEF Innovation Challenge Award and the Harvard Presidential Scholars Public Service Award.

–  Joseph Maria
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in Mali
Mali is a large, central country in the Sahel region of Western Africa. As of 2017, 42.7% of the population lived below the poverty line. In the first half of 2020 alone, humanitarian assistance became a necessity for more than 4.3 million people in Mali. Persistence of violence, food insecurity, drought and high poverty levels have not only deteriorated the quality of life for many Malians throughout the last decade, but have also actively aggravated the level of homelessness in Mali. According to the United Nations Development Program, approximately 80% of the population of Mali does not have access to adequate housing.

Violence and Instability

Violence and instability play a large role in worsening homelessness in Mali. The nation experienced a rise in homelessness in correlation with the violence of the 2012 crisis. At this time, multiple Islamic groups rose up in rebellion against the government. Despite the negotiation of a peace agreement in 2015, rampant violence and conflict continue today between unidentified armed groups throughout the country. The initial outbreak of violence left as many as 230,000 people displaced from their homes; eight years later, this violence continues to internally displace massive amounts of people. As of March 2020, 124,000 Malians were homeless. According to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, the total number of displaced persons in Mali due to violence and conflict is 208,000 as of December 2019.

Child Homelessness

The census on homeless children reported that Mali’s capital, Bamako, has nearly 4,400 homeless children. However, unofficial estimates put that number closer to 6,000. On top of that, around 200,000 children nationally exist in “difficult living circumstances.” Many of these homeless children are considered “street children,” commonly sent out to beg and retrieve money for gangs to which they belong or for adults exploiting them. These children tend to either come from large families or be orphans, and both live in public urban spaces.

Natural Disasters

Homelessness in Mali is also aggravated by natural disasters, particularly flooding. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre found that 6,300 total people became displaced due to natural disasters in 2019, the large majority of which was flooding. Floods displaced as many as 19,000 Malians in 2018, and more recently, 4,600 in August of 2019 alone. The floods of August 2019 destroyed as many as 845 homes.

Looking Forward

While homelessness in Mali remains a complex issue, some organizations are coming together to start combating homelessness however possible. Domestically-based NGO Association Malidéni was founded in 2009 with the intention of helping street children out of homelessness. The organization now also provides aid to homeless adults, individuals suffering from substance abuse, prisoners and victims of sexual exploitation with community-building soccer programs. With efforts such as these, the elimination of homelessness in Mali seems achievable.

Alexandra Black
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in MaliOne of the largest countries in Africa, the Republic of Mali sits landlocked in the northwestern chunk of the continent. While it is known more recently as one of the most impoverished and unstable countries, thousands of years ago Mali was a cultural epicenter. The Niger and Senegal rivers that cross through the country made Mali one of the richest countries due to a flourishing trans-Saharan trade economy. With goods came literature, art, music and discovery, transforming the Malian city of Timbuktu into a vital center for scholarship. Though Timbuktu’s cultural reputation and Mali’s musical achievements have continued, the country as a whole faces many challenges. About half of Mali’s total population lives in poverty, facing exceedingly unhealthy circumstances as a result, partially due to poor sanitation. Mali’s journey toward achieving proper hygiene and sanitation is detailed in the following facts.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mali

  1. In 2017, the WHO and UNICEF discovered 52% of Malian households nationally have access to basic hygienic facilities, just below the global average of 60%. In rural areas though, access to facilities drops down to just 39%. These averages are higher than other African countries, like Ethiopia and Burundi, that have less than 10% access to facilities in rural areas.
  2. UNICEF also found about 7% of Malians still practice open defecation, causing preventable illnesses connected to improper sanitation. Diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria unequally affect children, producing some of the highest child and infant mortality rates in the world. However, in 2018, UNICEF, USAID and its partner organization JIGI implemented Community-Led Total Sanitation models (CLTS) as a way to decrease open defecation in rural communities. CLTS helped more than 3,500 villages eradicate open defecation, improving the lives of almost three million people due to increased awareness of personal hygiene and sanitation.
  3. Thanks to humanitarian aid from various organizations, 80% of Mali’s national population has access to safe drinking water and in rural areas, 70% have access. In 2019, UNICEF and its partners provided water supply services to more than 194,500 people, including water points and latrines in 95 schools and 61 health centers.
  4. In 2018, a Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study discovered diarrheal diseases stood as the third-highest cause of death in Mali, beaten by neonatal diseases and malaria. However, it is worth noting that due to sanitation improvement measures, the rate of death from diarrheal diseases declined by almost 9% between 2008 and 2017.
  5. Currently, 52%of the population does not have access to a handwashing facility, weakening how Malians can effectively combat diseases. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF has begun distributing handwashing devices with the goal of sending up to 4,000. In a joint report with UNICEF and the WHO published in April concerning COVID-19, they specified that “frequent and correct hand hygiene is one of the most important measures to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus”. They also recommend proper water sanitation and waste management to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  6. About 50% of schools have improved water access, though only 20% have working, gender-separated latrines. Due to the coronavirus, more than 1,000 schools have closed for the time being, cutting off access to what could be a child’s only functioning toilet.
  7. Since 2012, armed conflicts have resulted in the displacement of thousands of people in addition to violence and abuse of children. This instability has created a decrease in the successful delivery of humanitarian aid, which the country largely relies on for assistance with sanitation needs. The coronavirus pandemic has also slowed the services usually given to Mali.
  8. In April, the World Bank approved a $25.8 million grant to support Mali’s response to the coronavirus. The money contributes to health care services, screening and treatment of patients. The initial funding will focus on Mali’s response to the virus and the country’s ability to handle the health and economic impacts to come with an already fragile health system. The grant will also allow Mali to continue essential services like clean water and education.
  9. The humanitarian organization World Vision joined the Mali Integrated Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program (MIWASH) to construct 208 new water points in 2019, allowing more than 100,000 people access to sanitation facilities while increasing hygiene education. World Vision has also implemented numerous latrine stalls, handwashing kits and hygienic education services through its additional projects, reaching 15,400 children in 51 schools.
  10. In 2016, UNESCO, U.N.-Women, UNFPA and KOICA implemented the “Empowering Girls and Young Women through Education in Mali” project to help girls and young women seek better living conditions through equitable education. The project involves educating girls about feminine hygiene and their reproductive rights to decrease the rates at which young girls drop out of school, have children and marry while still children themselves. One aspect of the project involves access to clean water and sanitation facilities. One of the many achievements the project has made since its creation includes the construction and mending of 137 latrines suitable for girls in Bamako.

Poor sanitation is not the only problem plaguing Mali but it does create a tidal wave of other preventable issues that Malians have to struggle with. Disease, higher mortality rates and malnutrition result from improper sanitation of water and toilet facilities. However, continued investments by the Malian government along with support from international players will help with country to improve sanitation in Mali for its citizens going forward. 

Maria Marabito
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Development in Mali
Mali is a subsistence farming-based economy in West Africa. Approximately 80 percent of the population works in the agriculture industry, yet low productivity, natural disasters and poor crop yields prevent many Malians from rising out of poverty. The 40 percent poverty rate includes farmers that rely on outdated farming techniques for their livelihoods while also depending on favorable crop prices that fluctuate based on Mali’s fragile economy. Since agriculture is the main industry, USAID and the World Bank are working towards agricultural development in Mali.

Importance of Crops

The main crops in Mali are cotton, corn, cereal, peanuts and tobacco. It exports cotton to neighboring countries like Senegal on the Ivory Coast, and various types of cereal remain important due to their ability to withstand droughts. Since the Sahara Desert covers the northern portion of Mali, it is difficult to find suitable land for farming and livestock. Most farmers rely on the Niger River and its surrounding area for fertile land, as about 65 percent of the country is desert or semi-desert.

Mali cultivates less than 5 percent of its land, yet almost half of its GDP is from agriculture. Most of the cultivated land involves various types of cereals, such as sorghum and millet. One issue that affects the agriculture sector in Mali is desertification, which overgrazing livestock, droughts and deforestation can cause. Farmers rely on rainfall, yet rainfall in Mali is rare and droughts are common. Since the agriculture sector in Mali remains the most important industry for the majority of Malians with more than 40 percent of its GDP comprising of the agriculture sector, further agricultural development in Mali could benefit its people and economy by increasing income and reducing poverty.

USAID Projects

As part of its strategy to end world hunger, the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative in Mali focuses on cereal for food security and poverty reduction, as well as rice production to improve income and livestock for food security and another source of income. To date, the Feed the Future initiative has benefitted approximately 500,000 Malians. In 2019, USAID used two methods as part of its Fertilizer Deep-Placement Micro-Dosing. This project aims to improve crop production through fertilizer deep placement and micro-dosing technology. More than 453 jobs emerged in rural areas due to the success of the two productivity methods.

Another project in the Mopti region helped increase farming productivity by 60 percent. The goal of the Large Scale Diffusion of Technologies for Sorghum and Millet Systems project was to increase sorghum and millet income. Seed treatment, hybrids of sorghum and millet and soil fertility improvement were among the reasons for the high productivity. Sorghum and millet were the focus crops due to their climate resilience and drought tolerance.

Nah Drame benefitted from the project in the Mopti region after receiving training on fertilizer, irrigation, sowing, land preparation and harvesting. She replicated what she learned on her own five-acre farm. Production and income increased so much that she expanded her farm to 12 acres and hired three employees to help with her expansion. Drame used some of the money she earned to buy clothes and school kits for her grandchildren. She also used the money to help her daughter start a business of her own, and it was all thanks to USAID’s involvement in the agriculture sector in Mali.

The World Bank’s Involvement

The World Bank’s $150 million Fostering Agricultural Productivity Project for Mali began in 2010 with the goal of improving productivity and crop yields. The project proved successful as crop yields increased from 27 million pounds in 2016 to 34 million pounds in 2018. The project also benefitted 668 farms and 4,300 producers in Sabalibougou, and it developed more than 6,600 acres of land for agriculture in M’Bewani and Sabalibougou.

USAID, the World Bank and various other organizations are continually working towards agricultural development in Mali. Economic development is slow, yet improving income for millions of farmers in Mali could help reduce poverty and develop the economy. If more Malians like Nah Drame obtained training on improved farming techniques, an even greater impact could take place, as increased income would help millions afford better education, health care, necessities and many other things that those in developed countries often take for granted.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Wikipedia

Smallholder Farmers
MyAgro is an organization working from the ground up to address poverty and it is doing so through an innovative technique. With the latest research proving that user-friendly mobile systems accessible in low internet areas are some of the best ways to reach people in poverty, myAgro built a cellphone-based savings program called Mobile Layaway. It helps smallholder farmers in Mali and around the world pay for supplies. Smallholder farmers no longer have to struggle to save lump sums in order to purchase seeds and fertilizer for their farms.

Who Are Smallholder Farmers?

Smallholder farmers are people who work on up to 10 hectares of farmland. Smallholders have family-focused motives behind their work and generally rely on family labor for production. Not only is farming their job, but they often depend on it to feed their family. They also provide up to 80 percent of the food supply on an equal percentage of the farmland in sub-Saharan Africa.

How Does MyAgro’s Mobile Layaway Work?

Smallholders often have difficulty saving enough money to purchase bulk farm goods. The majority of rural farmers live too far from banks and do not have the money to access them and make deposits. Furthermore, bank fees would deplete their savings quickly.

However, many of these farmers already go to the store to purchase cards for minutes on their phones, so they are familiar with Mobile Layaway’s system. With Mobile Layaway, farmers go to their local village store where they purchase a prepaid scratch card, which can range from 50 cents to $50. After texting the scratch-off code, the value of the purchased card goes into a “savings account,” which can accumulate to pay for fertilizer, seeds and training packages. Mobile Layaway is similar to having a savings account at a bank, however, it is on the smallholder’s phone, which makes it easy to save money while buying supplies for their homesteads.

MyAgro takes this program one step further as well; its field agents train the smallholder farmers in modern farming techniques and methods that work specifically in the West African landscape.

The Situation in Mali

Mali ranks number 21 on the list of the poorest countries by population. In 2009, the poverty rate in Mali stood at 49.7 percent, meaning that almost half of the population lived on less than $1.90 per day. Though 2019 numbers are not officially out, the World Bank estimates that the poverty rate has reduced from the 2017 rate of 43.4 to 41.3 percent. The World Bank attributes this recent decrease to “exceptional agricultural production.

Mali’s economy greatly relies on its agricultural sector. It makes up 80 percent of the populations’ daily activities and income. The country ranks number 44 for countries with the most arable hectares for agricultural production, at a whopping 4.8 million hectares. What is more shocking is that Mali is using only 7 percent of this land.

Because of Mali’s substantial possibility of growth, many organizations have stepped in to build a more sustainable agriculture system. Building a sustainable agriculture system required aiding the farmers in developing a farming capacity, reducing food insecurity and increasing livelihoods. A byproduct of work in Mali has been an increase in people’s awareness of the necessity for better techniques. In recent years, organizations have had to alter their strategies to adapt to climate change effects such as floods and droughts.

MyAgro’s Benefits

Mali’s government went through a military coup when myAgro was just a pilot savings-based payment model in its first year. International NGOs and foreign governments all left as the government shut down, and the country was in political chaos. MyAgro stayed, and during that time, it learned that smallholder farmers in Mali still saved money through their mobile phones. MyAgro allowed for this possibility as most banks closed during that period. With loan-based payment models, many farmers would have defaulted on their payments during a time of conflict like in Mali.

MyAgro’s Impact

Originally, the organization’s reach was slow-moving. In fact, its users changed from a few thousand in 2011 to 30,000 in 2017. Since then, it took only two years for the number of users to double; the company hit 60,000 farmers in 2019. MyAgro estimates that it will be able to increase these numbers even further and reach 120,000 farmers in 2020.

Reaching farmers is one thing, but the personal impact on each individual is also phenomenal. If a smallholder farmer implements the techniques that MyAgro offers, they can expect to see a 50 percent increase in their harvest yield per hectare, at minimum. Some farmers have even seen a 100 percent increase per hectare. This equates to about $150 to $300 in additional income for the smallholder farmers each year. MyAgro is not stopping there and is “working to increase the direct economic impact of the program to over $550 per farmer in the next few years to move each farmer above the poverty line.”

MyAgro’s Longterm Goals

Because myAgro’s mission is to move smallholder farmers in Mali and the world out of poverty, it is no surprise that its ultimate goal is to reach 1 million farmers and their 10 million family members. By 2025, myAgro aims to work with these smallholder farmers to increase their income by $550 a year. This additional income would push the farmers and their families out of poverty.

MyAgro started an enormously challenging pilot model that led to a successful organization. It not only aids smallholder farmers in their rise out of poverty but changes people’s perceptions of farmers’ abilities to handle their money. Through all of this, myAgro has built a resilience with Malian citizens that the country has never seen before.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Unsplash

 

Agriculture in Mali
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and has a per capita income of $300. Estimates determine that the overall poverty rate is 64 percent. Many factors contribute to the country’s poverty level. Mali suffers from low and erratic rainfall, poor soil and low agricultural production output. The country also suffers from poor infrastructure, especially in the areas of transportation and communications, as well as underdeveloped human capital. This is devastating because almost 80 percent of the country’s population depends upon agriculture in Mali for their livelihood.

Four Pillars for Mali’s Rural Development

The International Monetary Fund of the African Department published a poverty reduction strategy paper in 2002. The paper proposed policy priority action programs for Mali’s rural development. The paper presented four pillars:

  • Create a macroeconomic environment for accelerated and redistributive growth within the context of macroeconomic stability and openness, that the private sector drives.
  • Promote institutional development, governance and participation.
  • Develop human resources and access to quality basic services.
  • Build basic infrastructure and develop productive economic solutions.

The Project Appraisal Document entitled, Project Appraisal Document on a Proposed Credit in the amount of SDR 30.7 Million to the Republic of Male for an Agricultural Competitiveness and Diversification Project, emerged in 2005. It said that Mali’s poverty problem is a rural issue and that fighting it requires improving the life and income of Mali’s rural population. The Product Appraisal Document stated, “The project aims at fostering improvements in the performances of supply chains for a range of agricultural, livestock, fishery and gathering products, for which, Mali has a strong competitive advantage.” Thus, after the publishing of the poverty reduction strategy paper, Mali instituted the Program for Competitiveness and Agricultural Diversification (PCDA).

Program for Competitiveness and Diversification of Agriculture

The goal of the PCDA was to increase the competitiveness of Mali’s traditional produce of cotton, rice and less traditional crops, such as fruit, horticulture products, oilseeds, Arabic gum and cashews. The PCDA has a strong private sector focus. The project’s goal was to pump more money into marketing and communication.

The World Bank has been supportive of the implementation of Mali’s governmental strategy to reduce the issues leading to Mali’s poverty. The agriculture project, with the World Bank’s backing, has granted financial and technical support for 125 of Mali’s agricultural business investors.

Socodevi

Socodevi carried out the work of the Program for Competitiveness and Diversification of Agriculture. Socodevi is a mutual and cooperatives network that shares its knowledge and expertise with developing countries. Its work focused on techniques and technology to improve the competitiveness and production of agriculture in Mali. The regions of focus for the project were Bamoko-Koulikor, Mopti, Segou and Skasso.

The result of this project has been beneficial for more than 8,000 individuals. The 1,482.6 acres developed have yielded a 30 percent increase due to the improved irrigation methods. The PCDA project created 2,280 jobs with 1,175 being permanent.

Who This Project Has Helped

The project helped people such as Madame Coulibaly, an agricultural engineer, who turned her small store into a booming green business through government permits and bank loans. Coulibaly says she now has eight women employees that do the washing, whereas she only had two before. She also has a guard and three publicists, amounting to a total of 14 employees, including Coulibaly. She says that increases in her sales have led to increases in her staff.

Other examples of people who have benefited from government aid are Mamadou Diallo, who grows fruit on his own plot of land. Diallo said he would work in agriculture without government help, but would not be producing as much. Mamadou received seedlings for a new type of papaya that comes from Burkina Faso. This type of papaya produces more fruit in less time.

Along with seedling and financial aid, people such as Mamadou and Coulibaly also receive technical advice on irrigation and how to care for their crops for improved productivity. They may also receive advice on other crops they can grow.

Agriculture in Mali is likely to increase with the continued support of the World Bank. It could, perhaps, also benefit from private investors from the United States who may benefit from Mali’s agricultural produce. Financial support from the United States toward the reduction of poverty and promotion of industry may also foster the growth of an important friendship which may be beneficial in an unstable part of the globe.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr
Public Health in Mali
Mali is a nation that has had both ups and downs in recent decades where public health is concerned. Food and waterborne diseases are particularly problematic within the country. The degree of risk for attracting some sort of major illness or infection within Mali is very high. Among the top 10 causes of death in Mali are neonatal disorders, malaria, malnutrition and lower respiratory infections. Many of the issues surrounding public health in Mali largely correlate with access to food and clean drinking water.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The CDC has been working in a close partnership with the country since 1996 in an effort to provide aid for public health in Mali. A CDC epidemiologist first began working with Mali on stopping diseases like smallpox and measles. However, its mission within the nation’s borders has expanded. One goal of the CDC’s current partnership with the nation is to improve public health in Mali. The CDC is expanding access to solutions for vaccine-preventable illnesses and other leading causes of death. Another goal is strengthening the country’s laboratory and workforce capacity to help it be more prepared for disease outbreaks.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Despite some serious achievements within the health sector of the country, public health in Mali still remains one of the largest concerns within its borders. The newest strategy under the U.S. Agency for International Development focuses heavily on development within the region in several different ways. It prioritizes the comprehensive packaging of high-impact health services at the community level and pushes for making said necessary health initiatives accessible to those who need it the most. Additionally, the organization supports the goals of the U.S. Government Global Health Initiative. The organization is continuously looking for ways to improve public health by making effective, quality health services to Mali’s citizens.

Prioritizing Mothers and Children

Even more specifically, Mali and initiatives must give special attention to mothers and children within the country as part of any approach to improving public health in Mali. Some organizations prioritize this above all else, like Mali Health. Its approach focuses on promoting financial health and stability. Mali Health removes financial barriers that stand in the way for many citizens of Mali. The thinking behind this approach is that with fewer financial barriers posing as obstacles for mothers, they will be able to seek out medical care for themselves and their children easier than it may have been previously to do so. Approaching public health in Mali primarily by tackling issues that heavily affect mothers and children first is an intuitive idea. Doing so means that healthier mothers are able to raise healthier children. The children will live and thrive past the years where certain illnesses can be particularly deadly. In addition, when more children survive and thrive, it leads to successes in Mali’s workforce, population growth and economic growth.

Clean Water in Mali

Another integral approach to solving the issues which plague public health in Mali is one that focuses primarily on clean water. Diarrheal diseases are especially lethal and often emerge out of a lack of access to clean and safe drinking water. One nonprofit organization, Medicine for Mali, has drilled 28 clean water wells within the country in hopes of providing cleaner water to its citizens. Solar even powers some of these wells and the organization has provided training within the villages it services so that users know how to maintain and repair the wells. It is through organizations like these that profound impacts are visible on public health in Mali. The implementation of health services and wells can change the lives of thousands of people all at once. This sparks a movement to help a nation on its path to growth.

Like many other countries, Mali still needs improvement in order to become substantially healthier. Public health in Mali still faces many issues. The real challenge lies in ensuring that clean drinking water, necessary medications and vaccinations and preventive health services are accessible throughout the country. The country should undoubtedly achieve this through the combined efforts of nonprofit organizations, its government, its citizens and foreign aid agencies in the U.S.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr