Change Through Cowpeas: In Mali, WFP Empowers Women Farmers
As the world’s largest humanitarian agency, the World Food Programme (WFP) uses its procurement needs to boost agriculture in developing nations through its Purchase for Progress (P4P) programmes. In the village of Logo in Mali, WFP and its partners have helped women farmers improve yields in the fields, while also enriching their children’s diets.
LOGO – On a sandy plain below Mali’s majestic Bandiagara cliffs, Awa Tessougué describes how she and a group of women farmers reshaped agriculture in their village, putting money in their pockets and improving their children’s nutrition in the process.
“In the beginning, my husband was sceptical about the project. Now, not only has he given me a larger plot of land so that I can grow more niebe (cowpea), but he also allows me to sell the family’s millet surplus to WFP,” she said.
Traditionally women in this region were denied access to land unless their husbands, who tended to cultivate millet for use in the home, consented. Some women were given tiny plots of land to grow crops for sale to cover some household expenses.
Awa Tessougué was among a small group of women whose husbands or male relatives gave them small parcels of land on which they grew niebe, a type of cowpea that is rich in protein, for sale in local markets.
WFP, through its P4P initiative, recognised the challenges facing these women as they attempted to move from subsistence farming to larger scale production of crops for sale, and started to work with them in 2009.
Acting with partners, including Catholic Relief Services and the Government of Mali’s local agricultural division, WFP taught the women how to increase production and also provided more resilient and high-yielding niebe seeds.
Thanks to these efforts, the women of Logo steadily increased their sales of surplus niebe, from one metric ton in 2011 (valued at approximately US$700) to 14 metric tons (with an approximate value of US$13,500) in 2013.
Yapè Tessougué, president of the Logo women farmers’ organization, says the village chief, who once fiercely opposed the project,is now very supportive.
“He has given 200 hectares of farming land to our organisation for niebe and millet production. He also offered a portion a land on which WFP built a warehouse to store our stocks,” she said.
Awa Tessougué says that she can now pay her four children’s school fees, and is not dependent on her husband for all her needs.
“I even give my children a small amount of money to buy snacks during their break (at school) and I’ve noticed that they are now more motivated to go to school,” she said.
WFP and its partners have also educated the women of Logo on the benefits of consuming the nutrient- and protein-rich niebe, which in the past was almost exclusively grown for sale. Today, more and more women are using niebe in their own homes, and they say this has helped reduce child malnutrition rates in the village.
“My children are less often ill and look healthier since they started eating more niebe,” said Binta Dramé, another farmer and mother-of-six.
“The P4P project in Mali is very holistic as it brings together key aspects of development, such as nutrition, capacity building and gender empowerment,” said Ken Davies, the Global P4P Coordinator after he visited Logo in late September. “While WFP is currently mainstreaming the best aspects of P4P into its overall Country Programme in Mali, I am glad to see the strong engagement from the Government at all levels”.