Building the adaptive capacity of women in Mali’s Koutiala District
By Edmond Totin and Amadou Sidibe
Closing the gender gap is at the heart of the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR) project. The West Africa team’s recent research on mental models of food security in rural Mali highlighted the need to strengthen the adaptive capacity of young women, who are the most vulnerable to climate change because of their limited access to education, financial services and assets. Based on these findings, a specific Grant for Local Adaptation Support (GLAS) was initiated to identify windows of opportunity for young women's business to expand their access to resources. The project team proposed that creating reliable market opportunities for young women could inject much needed income into some of the poorest food-insecure rural households and increase their resilience.
As part of this grant, a group of 14 women selected from seven villages of Mali’s Koutiala District came together on the 27th of August 2018 for a workshop to explore ways to improve their living conditions through the increase of business revenue across the agricultural value chain. The workshop was organised by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), ASSAR's partner in Mali, and the NGO Association of Awakening to Sustainable Development (AMEDD).
From the interaction with the women, two business cases were selected for piloting: 1) the promotion of enabling conditions for vegetable production and 2) small-scale trading in the agricultural sector.
“In my village, water shortage is the major barrier to vegetable production," Alimatou Sanogo from Konsegela village shared at the workshop. "If we can get an irrigation facility, we would be able to produce all year long. If you can show us how to get the irrigation device, we will surely improve our conditions.”
“I do not produce, but I sell vegetables,” Awa Dembele, another workshop participant added. “In the dry season, I hardly get them as the well dries up and farmers do not have water for irrigation. During that period, prices get higher. Having water facilities for farmers will also help my business.”
At the end of the one-day workshop, the group agreed to make an integrated business case, which considers both irrigation infrastructure for intensification of crop production (including vegetables) and credit facilities from local banks to enable income diversification.
With support of the GLAS grant, the project team will adopt a business-oriented model to address structural barriers that limit women’s access to resources. This approach aims to allow women to take advantage of economic opportunities by taking on new roles that increase their adaptive capacity. It is also hoped that such a business model will guarantee the sustainability of the dynamics between community members and local organisations, even after the ASSAR project ends.
This business model will be piloted in two villages to generate evidence and serve as a learning setting for women. The team anticipates that once the results become visible, local authorities will step in to cover many other areas, offering better economic opportunities to women smallholder farmers.