BAMAKO -- Souleymane Keita, 39, is feeling especially pleased. “This year the harvest will be good”, he says.
Thanks to a WFP food- for- work project that helped to build a small dam in Ouelessebougou, in the Koulikoro region of Mali, he has been able to diversify his agricultural production.
“Before, I was only cultivating millet”, he said. “The farmers of the region were heavily dependent on the rain. When the rainy season was poor, like in 2011, our families were starving. Now, we can better control the circumstances, and diversify our cultures. Thanks to the water retained by the dam, we are now growing paddy rice, potatoes, tomatoes and of course millet. We have also built a small fishing pound, so we can eat better. And we sell our products, which brings in money for the community.”
Around 30 percent of the Koulikoro’s inhabitants suffer from chronic malnutrition. These are among the highest rates in the country, yet most of the cereals in Mali are produced in here in the south.
“The lack of development keeps the people in a situation of high poverty”, explained Mahamadou Tanimoune, WFP Nutrition Officer in Mali. “People are spending most of their resources on one or two basic foods which are not enough to give them all the nutriments they would get from a more diverse diet.”
WFP Mali’s rural development programme aims to assist communities in areas of chronic food insecurity. The programme is implemented through a food-for-work approach that mobilizes rural communities to undertake high intensity labor in exchange for food.
The assets created benefit the whole community and improves agricultural productivity. This way WFP helps people meet their immediate food needs while enabling them to increase their self-sufficiency in the longer term.
Forty-seven people have been working on this project. In exchange of their work they receive two kilograms of dry food rations of millet and rice per person per day. Food distributions are organized on a weekly basis by WFP’s implementing partner REACH Italia.
“The dam had countless benefits for our community”, said Souleymane. “The project is a good incentive for young men of the village to stay here instead of leaving for bigger cities to find a job. Now they want to continue helping their families from here, they have new ambitions.”
Around 2,000 people live in Ouelessebougou, where the dam provides a new boost to the local economy. On the banks of the dam, villagers are also experimenting with new crops.
For Aminata, who sells the community’s produce on the local market, these novelties will help fight poverty.
“Moringa is a vegetable that contains lots of vitamins, minerals and proteins,” she explained. “It sells at a high price on the local market. The leaves are used in traditional medicine. Baobab is also well-known throughout Mali for its capacity to treat inflammations, and is used in many traditional recipes. We can also produce baobab honey and earn a good income from it.”