Rising temperatures, coupled with decreases in annual rainfall, granivorous bird attacks, armed conflict between the Malian Armed Forces and radical jihadists groups, the COVID-19 pandemic, and overall socio-political instability, have hampered Mali’s development and lead to rampant food insecurity and poor nutrition for millions of Malians. As a result, almost a third of the population, or some 5.9 million people, are in need of humanitarian assistance. An additional 360,000 people are refugees or have been internally displaced, and 950,000 people are in need of urgent food assistance.
To help improve living conditions in the country, People in Need (PIN), together with Alliance2015 partner Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and non-governmental organisations ADR and Stop Sahel, with funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, has been providing humanitarian assistance in Mali since 2019. The team’s work in the north of the Kayes Region in the country’s southwest, one of areas most severely affected by extreme weather and conflict, aims to build up residents’ resilience to conflict and climate change.
Climate change, armed conflict, and COVID-19 contribute to insecurity
In 2020, the frequency of climate change-induced shocks in Mali led to a deterioration in the population's livelihoods, an increase in prices, and displacement. Richard Walker, PIN’s Regional Director for Africa, says: “Climate change in 2020 in the Sahelian Zone manifested itself in a variety of ways, including droughts, which caused losses of livestock and/or crops, flooding from very heavy rains that damaged infrastructure such as roads, houses, gardens, and dams, and heat peaks of up to 45° Celsius that have mainly affected infants and the elderly.”
In addition, insecurity in the Sahel in 2020, caused by jihadists and armed criminals, disrupted agropastoral activities and markets, and hindered the mobility of people and animals. COVID-19 also left its mark on the region; Walker notes that “in addition to causing health concerns, COVID-19 impacted the Kayes diaspora, resulting in reduced remittances being sent to households in the intervention zone. These remittances are the primary source of household income there.”
“I carried water 12 kilometres”
Hawa Sidibé, 54, lives in a small village of Guessé Thierno with her family of 10. Her main source of income are sheeps and goats that she follows to seasonal pastures around the village.
Sidibé says: “We have had issues with water supply since the Guessé Thierno village was formed. I carried water at least 12 kilometres for my family. Imagine a population that relies on livestock for its livelihood but lacks water for itself and for the animals. I often spent up to 5,000 francs on water per day.”
As part of its work in Mali, the PIN team rehabilitated the pastoral well of Guessé Thierno by putting in a new borehole with a flow rate of 20m3 per hour with a water tower, two watering basins for the animals, and a fountain for residents.
“Faced with this water problem, I tried everything, but to no avail; I was in total despair. As if by miracle, in February 2020, the village chief and his advisers learned that after making several requests for easier water access to various authorities, there was finally a plan for the construction of a pastoral borehole. This was the beginning of hope for an entire community.”
Sidibé adds: “Now, thanks to this project, we have water in our village. Over 500 people benefit from this water, and the daily lives of women have changed significantly. We have more time to devote to our other duties, and we also have more time to recover from our long working days. I can feel the joy on my face and see it in the members of the community.”
To ensure the sustainability of the borehole construction, a low-cost water tax system has been set up to deal with possible breakdowns in the future. Villagers pay 15 francs for a can and 200 francs for a beef per month. “In the end, my greatest wish is to have a gardening area in Guessé Thierno,” Sidibé adds, hoping that improved access to water may facilitate a garden in the future.
Improving access to farmland and water for agropastoral households through the construction, maintenance, and management of agricultural and pastoral infrastructure is just one of the project’s objectives. The project also aims to improve soil fertility and ensure that natural resources in the intervention area are protected through the implementation of soil and water conservation measures. Additionally, it seeks to improve production and productivity through access to higher quality means of production, services and advice, as well as to diversify sources of income and increase food security through the improved processing, preservation, commercialisation, preparation, and consumption of food. Improvements in food security and livelihoods contribute to greater stability in the region and reduce the rates of internal migration.
50,000 beneficiaries were reached in 2020
To date, 16 works of agropastoral infrastructure have been rehabilitated or equipped, with approximately 6,300 households benefiting from the improvements. Small dams in the project area have become centres of inclusive and sustainable economic development. They promote gardening, rice and cereal growing, fish farming, cattle watering, tree growing, and other productive activities.
Jan Svitálek, PIN’s Lead Advisor for Climate Change and Climate Smart Agriculture, says: “Through increased rainwater infiltration, dams improve the water table so that even wells in the surroundings, which were dry for over 10 years, now have water. In this way, rehabilitated micro-dams also contribute to improved livelihoods and resilience of people from the surrounding villages.”
Additionally, 203 young people participated in the rehabilitation of some of the small dams, enabling them to earn money by working for the community. Svitálek notes: “Over 64 hectares of farmland have been restored. 58 hectares were restored through repairs to four dams, and six hectares were aided by eight community gardens. Three out of four pastoral wells are now functional. Various training courses have strengthened the capacity of 790 gardeners, most of them women. Agricultural and pastoral production in these zones will increase considerably, thus improving food security.” He adds that the distribution of farming inputs such as seeds and livestock fodder to 1,900 vulnerable households has increased yields and contributed to their resilience.
In total, approximatively 8,200 households, or 50,000 people, directly benefitted from the project in 2020. Despite the challenges of working in this region, project implementation has continued in 2021.
Petr Stefan, PIN Communication Officer