Mali: A practical approach to resilience

24 Sep 2013

August 2013, Cinzana, Mali: 63-year-old Mariama Dembele was able to buy livestock and farming tools thanks to the support of the World Food Programme and her local farmer's cooperative. "Now I can plan my spending," she says. "We put aside the family stock and sell the surplus. This earns me cash and even allows me to save money." Credit: OCHA
How a community in south-central Mali has gone from food aid recipient to provider in four years. [English - French]

In 2009, the town of Cinzana was perpetually on the brink of food insecurity. Communities were highly vulnerable to weather fluctuations, and farming was disorganized and disjointed, with people struggling to produce enough food to meet their day-to-day needs.

But four years on, Cinzana has become a food aid provider, with the support of the World Food Programme (WFP). The project, part of WFP’s global ‘Purchase for Progress’ programme, seeks to tackle the root causes of vulnerability and help communities break cycles of poverty and disaster.

Aid workers have provided farmers with information about changing weather patterns along with guidance on how they can adapt their farming methods to cope with these changes. The programme has established a market for food that is grown in the town, with WFP purchasing its global emergency food directly from local farmers and farming cooperatives.

Community Resilience

Dr. Soaïbou Toure is the President of a local farmer’s cooperative.

"We regularly follow the weather information,” he says. "This allows us to know what to plant and when. We adapt our seed varieties based on forecasts.

"We are proud that our products are used to assist vulnerable people in other places.”

WFP has helped farmers in Cinzana to establish and manage their own cooperatives. Before the programme began, Cinzana residents often depended on food aid. But in 2009, the town’s seven cooperatives produced a grain surplus of 150 tons – enough for them to sell on the global market. By 2012, a total of 18 cooperatives had been formed, with the annual surplus ballooning to 400 tons.

"One of the achievements of the programme is the organization of producers," says Youssouf Coulibaly, head of an agricultural cooperative in Cinzana. "They plan sales without falling into food insecurity."

Visible change

"In the village, the change is visible," continued Mr. Coulibaly. "The children go to school, the community has changed and the producers are now setting the sale price, not the merchants."

Mariama Dembele, a 63 year-old widow from Sanogola village on the outskirts of Cinzana, agrees. "The purchase of our products by WFP through the cooperatives has changed many things in my life," she says. "I can buy a cart, a donkey, sheep and poultry that I raise here at home… My last boy of 23 years left, but when the economy here stabilized, he returned to the village."

In the past, Mrs. Dembele, would sell her grain on a daily basis.

"When I needed money, I sold some grain or borrowed money from richer people. But now I can plan my spending," she says. "We put aside the family stock and sell the surplus. This earns me cash and even allows me to save money."

OCHA, in collaboration with humanitarian partners like WFP, is working to build the resilience of communities across the Sahel.

In Mali, more than 3.5 million people are currently affected by food insecurity with more than 1.4 million in need of immediate food assistance. The WFP programme in Cinzana is an shows how aid can help to strengthen the resilience of a community, and help people to break the cycle of vulnerability.

French version>>