USAID Programs in MaliThe landlocked West African country of Mali faces a myriad of challenges. In 2021, Mali ranked 186 out of 191 in the UNDP Human Development Index, and, according to the World Food Programme, nearly eight in 10 people in Mali are affected by poverty, and nearly a third of Malian children under the age of 5 suffer from stunting. Faced with these difficult circumstances, USAID programs in Mali work to improve the situation in the country in a number of areas including health, humanitarian and food assistance, education and human rights protection.

Agriculture and Food Security

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that nearly a fifth of the Malian population is affected by food insecurity. This highlights the importance of USAID programs in Mali that combat hunger and help the agriculture sector, which is responsible for 80% of employment in the country. USAID’s “Feed the Future” program, which runs in a number of other countries as well, implements help in a number of ways.

The program works with members of the private sector to incentivize private companies to commit to sustainable agricultural production and the sale of agricultural products in Mali. To aid the highly agriculture-dependent population, the program also provides education to Malian farmers on better farming practices and soil and water conservation techniques. In addition, Feed the Future helps them gain access to better soil, fertilizer and financing, so that farmers are able to increase food production and reduce food insecurity. In the year 2021 alone, Feed the Future was able to assist the nutrition of nearly 2 million children under the age of 5, making it one of the most impactful of all USAID programs in Mali. Feed the Future even branches out into the more political sphere, with USAID representatives working with local government and NGOs to encourage the harmonic use of resources so that food insecurity may be reduced.


Mali is faced with a number of health crises which USAID programs in Mali aim to combat. While the scope of USAID health aid is large, ranging from the provision of training to health workers and medical equipment to health facilities and much more, there are some initiatives that are more targeted at specific health issues. The Presidential Malaria Initiative, for example, is committed to fighting the disease malaria in the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria ranks as one of the leading causes of death in Mali, making work to combat the disease of high importance. By way of the Presidential Malaria Initiative, USAID provides a wide range of aid to both prevent malaria from spreading and treat infected Malians. Malaria prevention measures include the provision of preventive treatments for pregnant women, the distribution of mosquito nets, rapid diagnostic tests and insecticide spray. In addition, USAID treats malaria-infected Malians with fast-acting medicines, to prevent further spread and enable those with the disease to recover from it.


Around 12.5% of Malian children of primary school age do not attend school, according to the WFP. In addition, USAID reports that boys are more likely to be enrolled in school than girls, who are regularly deprived of an education in favor of working in the home. USAID programs in Mali seek to increase school participation and graduation and to increase the number of girls given the opportunity to receive an education. 

The USAID program Girls’ Leadership and Empowerment through Education (GLEE) works to decrease the barriers girls face to receiving an education and to empower them to become more independent and less vulnerable to exploitation. Amongst other initiatives, the program supports the establishment of “Accelerated Schooling Centers,” which are learning centers that provide an education to girls who missed out on school years. As of June 2023, USAID reported that 21,745 girls had been enrolled in such institutions, giving them a chance to catch up with their education.

Human Rights

With armed internal conflicts and crises regularly occurring, the human rights situation in Mali is difficult. USAID programs in Mali aim to strengthen democracy, human rights and the justice system in the country.

The Empowering Malians through Elections, Reforms and Governance Efforts (EMERGE) program, for example, aims to inform democratic debate and strengthen fair democratic elections. The program, which was founded by USAID in partnership with the Swiss and Danish stakeholders, has delivered training to nearly 5,500 local election observers and provided accurate information on elections to over 25 million Malians over the radio, in-person and on social media platforms.

Looking Ahead

Mali faces a number of challenges, ranging from food insecurity to disease and education issues. However, some progress has been made, as international aid, including USAID programs in Mali, works to improve the lives of Malians. For example, life expectancy at birth increased by over 10 years in Mali since 2000, per the WHO. Continued and increased aid is needed to continue this trend and ensure that Malians have a better future.

– Patrick Brownlow
Photo: Flickr

Women Farmers in MaliIn the arid lands of Mali, where poverty has been a longstanding adversary, a glimmer of hope is emerging through the empowerment of women farmers. The significance of this endeavor cannot be overstated, as it addresses not only the immediate challenges faced by these women but also strikes at the very heart of fighting poverty in the region. By empowering women farmers in Mali, the nation is unlocking a potential that holds the key to economic transformation and a brighter future for its rural communities. 

Poverty’s Grip on Rural Communities

Mali, like many other African countries, grapples with deep-rooted poverty that disproportionately affects its rural population. In fact, 49% of Malians live below the extreme poverty line. In the face of climate change, volatile food prices and limited access to resources and education, women farmers often find themselves trapped in a cycle of hardship and marginalization. However, recent initiatives aimed at empowering women in the agricultural sector are showing promise in breaking these barriers and creating opportunities for sustainable development. 

Unity in Empowerment: Women’s Farming Cooperatives

One such initiative gaining momentum is the establishment of women-led farming cooperatives in Mali. These cooperatives provide a platform for women farmers to come together, share knowledge, pool resources and collectively market their produce. By working together, these women gain access to larger markets and better crop prices, improving their income and financial independence. Additionally, these cooperatives foster an environment of mutual support, enabling women to adopt innovative and sustainable farming practices that enhance crop yields and resilience in the face of environmental challenges.

Education as a Catalyst for Change

Furthermore, addressing the gender gap in access to education is another critical component of empowering women farmers in Mali. When women attain knowledge and skills, they become powerful agents of change within their communities. Non-governmental organizations and local authorities are partnering to establish training programs that focus on agricultural techniques, financial literacy and leadership skills. These programs not only enhance women’s capabilities but also contribute to the overall agricultural productivity of the nation.

Policy Shifts Towards Inclusivity

In recent years, the Malian government, in collaboration with international development agencies, has also taken significant steps to address the systemic challenges women farmers face. By providing better access to land tenure, credit facilities and agricultural extension services, the government aims to level the playing field and create an enabling environment for women to thrive in agriculture. Additionally, policies that promote gender equality and women’s rights are being integrated into national development plans, signaling a commitment to sustainable and inclusive growth.

Empowerment Transforms Lives

The impact of empowering women farmers in Mali is already evident. These women are lifting themselves out of poverty, and their families and communities are also experiencing positive transformations. Increased income levels enable better access to health care, education and improved living conditions. Moreover, the newfound recognition of women’s contributions is challenging traditional gender norms and fostering a more equitable society.

Looking Ahead

The empowerment of women farmers is igniting a transformative shift in Mali. As women-led cooperatives thrive, their collective strength is breaking the cycle of poverty while fostering resilience against challenges. Education and policy shifts are further nurturing this progress, creating a ripple effect that not only improves lives but also cultivates a more inclusive and equitable society for Mali’s rural communities.

– Valentin Lyazov
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

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 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