Improvements in Agricultural Marketing Improve Incomes, Food Security
Mali is one of the world’s least developed countries, ranked 175 out of 187 countries in the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index. The rural Mopti region, in the center of the country, is especially poor, with 94 percent of the population in poverty and 78.6 percent in extreme poverty. The poverty level leads to weak social indicators: 90.1 percent of women and 70.6 percent of men in the Mopti region are illiterate and 41 percent of children under age 5 are stunted (low height for age).
Agricultural producers in the Mopti region are especially vulnerable—on average the region experiences only one good harvest out of every three rainy seasons. The majority of the rural poor in Mopti rely on rain-fed cereal crops resulting in lower yields and making farmers more susceptible to weather-related risks. The military coup in March 2012 and subsequent spread of Tuareg groups and al-Qaeda-backed insurgents in northern Mali has resulted in additional economic and security challenges.
In October 2009 ACDI/VOCA was awarded a three-year $1.89 million dollar subrecipient agreement from the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF USA) in order to address agricultural challenges in the Mopti region. This USDA-funded Food for Progress project sought to:
- Increase small farmers’ agricultural production through adoption of improved agronomic techniques and improved inputs for key staple crops, such as rice, millet, sorghum and vegetables
- Facilitate marketing of agricultural products to increase household incomes by working with producer groups to improve marketing structures, production quality and market power
- Enhance civil society by forming, mobilizing and training community-based village and women’s organizations to increase agricultural production and incomes, better manage their resources and become agents for change and development within their communities
- Provide microfinance services to farmers and entrepreneurs on a national scale with a particular focus on rural areas in the Mopti and Sikasso regions
ACDI/VOCA’s primary activities were in monetization and facilitation of agricultural marketing.
Monetization: Monetization is the sale of donated U.S. commodities to meet needs in a food deficit country; the proceeds then fund development activities. By the end of the program ACDI/VOCA monetized 15,000 MT of hard red winter wheat and 3,500 MT of vegetable oil on behalf of AKF USA to finance development activities in Mali.
Facilitating agricultural marketing: ACDI/VOCA worked with producer organizations throughout the Mopti region to reach an estimated 5,000 households in order to expand their access to markets and increase and diversify incomes. ACDI/VOCA trained farmers using its Farming as a Business (FaaB) curriculum and broadcasts FaaB-themed radio spots in order to reach community members who were not otherwise involved in the program. Additionally, ACDI/VOCA strengthened the capacity of 20 producer groups through business plan development coaching and conducted exchange programs to facilitate beneficial linkages and adoption of successful marketing practices between farming groups.