Securing food supplies through market access and resource management

The majority of Mali’s population are smallholder farmers who mainly practise subsistence agriculture. The increasing number of droughts, floods and pest infestations leads to ever more frequent crop shortfalls and threatens people’s food security. In the Mopti region, the project aims to safeguard the basic food requirements over the long term. Thanks to higher productivity, increased processing and the more effective sale of foodstuffs, the farming families are able to generate an income as well as feed themselves. The basis for this is the use of seeds and tools, the provision of training, finance and the setting up of cooperatives.


Country / Region / Place
Mali, Mopti Region: Bandiagara and Douentza Districts

Target group
5,167 smallholder farmers in the Mopti Region

Funding requirement
CHF 506,408

Project duration
1.1.2017 to 31.12.2019

Project number

Project objectives
The project contributes to food security through increased production, processing and sale of basic foodstuffs as well as through improved management of natural resources.

Project coordinator
Margaux Tharin, Tel 041 419 22 36, mtharinnot shown@caritasto make life hard for spam


Background information

Caritas Switzerland has been active in Mali for more than forty years. It is one of the world’s poorest countries. Approximately 17 million people live in a land area of 1.2 m km². Mali is ranked 179th out of 188 countries in the UN Development Index. Yet for a long time, the country was considered a model for decentralisation and socio-economic development. However, after two decades of successful development, a military coup in the spring of 2012 brought political instability, with huge consequences for the security situation. The interventions of French and Malian troops, as well as the United Nations, have led to an improvement in the security situation. Despite the signing of the peace agreement in May 2015, the situation remains tense.

An estimated 60 per cent of Mali’s population live on less than one US dollar a day, and are therefore experiencing extreme poverty. The majority of the population earn their living from agriculture, livestock farming and fishing. Production is still characterised by small family enterprises which are predominantly engaged in subsistence agriculture. Agricultural production in Mali is difficult: The rainy season is limited to the months from July to October. Due to changes in the climate, such as increasing drought periods and floods, as well as pest infestations, crop failures are becoming ever more frequent. The poor households are hardest hit. Because of the loss of income, as well as the rise in food prices, they are unable to either invest in production inputs or put money aside for future crises. Networking between producers, the processing industry, transport companies, traders and consumers remains weak. The general infrastructure, including transport routes, is inadequate. The rural areas also have a high rate of population growth (3%) without a matching increase in productivity. This leads to the overexploitation of natural resources. Above all, the increasing scarcity of land and water is the cause of growing conflicts between hoe-farmers and cattle breeders, and leads young people to migrate to the towns and cities.

The present project is located in the Mopti Region, in Bandiagara and Douentza Districts. More than 700,000 people live in 669 villages in this area. It covers a total of 7,700 km2 and stretches mostly across the Dogon Plateau, which consists of very hard sandstone ground. Only 10 per cent of the land is suitable for agriculture. Because of the steep gradient of the Plateau, there is considerable soil erosion caused by the wind and water, which further degrades the already poor soil. Vegetation is sparse and is being continually reduced because the local people use it as fuel. This increases the pressure on natural resources. In common with the large majority of the Malian population, the people in Mopti live from agriculture. The staple foods are corn and millet. The demand for basic foodstuffs in the Bandiagara district amounts to 82,260 tons, but only 20,524 tons are produced. A similar deficit exists in the Douentza district, where 67,603 tons are needed and 51,027 tons are produced. This adds up to a total deficit in basic foodstuffs of 76,312 tons. The traditional livestock breeders keep mostly cattle, sheep and goats and produce goods such as leather, meat, milk and dung. However, there is insufficient feed and water, which exacerbates the conflicts over resources with the vegetable and cereal farmers. Moreover, there are regular outbreaks of animal diseases, while too few animals are vaccinated. A better organisation of animal husbandry could be an important engine for local economic development. The market system in Bandiagara and Douentza is not very developed. There are few central markets which, because of the lack of infrastructure, are not easy to reach.


What are we doing?

The project supports the farmers in securing their own basic food requirements in the long term. They generate a higher income thanks to increased production, increased processing and the more effective sale of foodstuffs. At the same time, their capacities are strengthened, so they can use the natural resources in their area more sustainably. A special focus is on ensuring that they work out peaceful solutions when conflicts arise about the use of resources.

In order to increase production, the small farmers are supported in gaining better access to necessary production inputs such as finance, seeds and tools. In the present project, the cooperatives formed in the preceding project will build stronger networks with the suppliers.  If several small farming enterprises join together, they are in a better negotiating position vis-a-vis suppliers and traders. By negotiating fair contracts, the cooperatives can acquire high-quality seeds and other production inputs for their members at a reasonable price. Furthermore, the production methods are examined with regard to their environmental compatibility and adapted. The producers, who completed training courses on modern soil protection and irrigation techniques in the first phase, are supported in applying these methods. This serves to counteract the continuing soil erosion and ensures the availability of the water necessary for production.

Good storage is essential for the processing of the foodstuffs, as well as the sale of the harvest at a later time, for example when prices are rising. Therefore, the farmers are given support in building and managing storage silos, in order to prevent harvest losses due to improper storage. In addition, Caritas Switzerland supports the construction and use of systems for drying onions in order to increase the producers’ income and at the same time preserve the food longer.

In the present project phase, the cooperatives are also being strengthened in marketing their products better. Members of the cooperatives and the producer associations are offered marketing training. Here, the focus is on developing relationships with important actors such as traders and exporters and their quality requirements. At the same time, the producer associations are given further training on the subject of advocacy and lobbying, so that they can more specifically represent the interests of their members when dealing with, for example, government institutions. Furthermore, workshops are organised in order to bring together relevant market actors from the public and private sector.

In the area of resource management, the project increases the awareness of the target groups about legal principles and regulations. Conciliation committees are established and trained in order to mediate in conflicts that may arise about resources – such as the distribution of water between crop production and livestock breeding - in order to reach a peaceful solution. With regard to water management, there is also a need to promote proper sanitary facilities and good hygiene practice. This is done through cooperation with relevant committees. Another activity focuses on promoting the planting of trees in order to contribute to the ecological balance in the region.

The current project is being implemented in cooperation with the local partner organisation Caritas Mopti. This partner has many years of experience in carrying out food security projects in the area of intervention and enjoys great trust among the population. As a first step, a market study is being carried out in the project in order to align the interventions closely to the needs of the target group. The farmers supported by the project are consulted as part of a participatory process and are involved in the collection of relevant date to analyse and evaluate the project progress. 


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