Sustainable agriculture provides a lifeline to Mali’s women

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Agriculture is often a key route out of poverty for many in developing countries, especially among women.

And in the West African country of Mali, it is estimated that women make up half of all those involved in agriculture. However, UN Women reports that climate change is threatening to undo the progress made in building stronger rural communities and ending hunger in the country.

The UN entity, formed seven years ago, has been implemented a new programme called AgriFed, designed to combat the negative impacts of climate change on women.

"The effects of climate change are not sparing Mali, and are hitting this country hard, an additional challenge in an extremely fragile security context in the Sahel region,” says Maxime Houinato, UN Women Country Representative in Mali.  “And yet, Mali, although a low contributor to the global emission of greenhouse gases, is no less committed to the race to adapt to the effects of climate change.” 

AgriFed started its activities in the region of Segou, approximately 200 kilometres from Mali’s capital, Bamako. Its initial plan was to train 247 women and 66 men in sustainable agriculture techniques. This includes water conservation, new techniques in cultivation and scheduling crops.

Women have also learned the benefits of using fertilizer and pesticides to ward off against parasites. The region has seen an increased number of the creatures, which can ruin entire crops, as a direct result of rising temperatures and humidity.

“We thought the land was sick,” said local farmer Fatou Dembele. “We didn’t know that there were live parasites that attacked the roots of the plants and could kill them.”

In addition, UN Women has helped increase the local incomes of 110 women by introducing modern preservation techniques for produce such as shallots, onions and potatoes.

Another local farmer, Alphonsine Dembele, highlighted how Agrifed has not only boosted her income, but “help improve nutrition at home and reduce malnourishment in our children”.

The programme has also had the benefit of bringing women from different ethnic communities together to discuss new techniques and improve harvest yields.

UN Women hopes that the success of the scheme can be replicated in other African countries, which also face similar impacts from climate change.

Image Credit: Kate Holt/AusAID

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