Paving the ground for things to happen in Mali’s Koutiala District
By Birgit Ottermann, ASSAR communications officer
“Siaka Coulibaly knows the field so well and we always consult him because of his technical expertise and his knowledge of the local conditions. Without his support, we would have had far more challenges in meeting the right people in the region to engage with,” says Edmond Totin, research associate at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), ASSAR’s partner in Mali. Totin has had the pleasure of working side-by-side with Coulibaly in the district of Koutiala, where the team is conducting its research.
Coulibaly, an administrator for the NGO Association of Awakening to Sustainable Development (AMEDD), has a great deal of experience in Koutiala and belongs to a wide network of stakeholders.
“He is very important to us as he plays an intermediary role – connecting the project team with the right people that we need to know to make things happen on the ground!” says Totin. “The organisation AMEDD works on projects that address similar issues as ASSAR. Siaka’s technical capacity, combined with his long-term experience in the region and the trust he gained among the local community and partners all make him a champion for ASSAR.”
AMEDD is a prominent organisation, engaged in most of the agriculture projects in Mali. Besides working as an administrator of the NGO, Coulibaly also coordinates many projects on climate change and natural resource management within the same organisation – he has been with AMEDD for more than 10 years. In addition, Coulibaly is in charge of communication with the NGO and develops many radio programmes around climate change and natural resource management that are broadcast by local radios in the district.
Supporting sustainable development
According to Totin, Coulibaly is still very active in helping the Mali ASSAR team with fieldwork, arranging meetings and workshops on the ground, logistics, helping to identify the right persons and giving guidance.
Coulibaly was keen to collaborate with the ASSAR team as his organisation was already involved in many of the ASSAR project’s activities. “AMEDD is a key partner of ASSAR. Activities promoted by the project are all in line with our vision of supporting sustainable development in the district. I’ve seen how natural resources have been depleted here, and I am keen to support all initiatives that can help in improving the living conditions of our smallholder farmers,” he explains.
He is passionate about the need to provide accurate climate information in the region and to help people better adapt to climate change: “Climate change is a fact. We have many climate manifestations in our region… these happen because of the indiscriminate cutting of trees, bush burning, depletion of forest resources, and inadequate agricultural practices. The seasonal climate variability plays an important role in the production risks that our farmers face. Crop failures in the district are associated with either a lack or excess of rainfall. I believe that the provision of accurate climate forecasts can help to reduce agricultural risks.”
While ASSAR gained much from Coulibaly’s expertise and connections, he admits that he has also benefited from the relationship: “Working with the ASSAR project has given me the opportunity to learn how to develop participatory scenarios and responsive strategies by engaging different stakeholders’ views and perspectives.”
Totin concludes: “Siaka is a very dedicated person and enjoys assisting us. He is a true champion and we are very proud of his commitment to support ASSAR’s actions in the country.”