Mali: Prosperity Takes Root in Country
The Alatona Zone of Mali's Ségou region traditionally has been a poor and vulnerable area, marked by low and variable rainfall. But thanks to Mali's five-year, $460 million compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the region is transforming into a thriving hub of rice and vegetable production.
A major component of the compact is the $235 million Alatona Irrigation Project, which aims to develop a model of farmer-driven agricultural development, spur economic growth and reduce poverty, the MCC said in a press release. Key components of the project include the development of about 5,000 hectares of irrigated land and canal improvements that boost agricultural production and productivity in another 90,000 hectares.
The investment also includes improvements to the main road; rehabilitation and expansion of the irrigation system; construction of villages with agricultural warehouses, schools and health facilities; training in agricultural techniques; better access to financial services; and improved land-tenure security for small farmers. The project also helps beneficiaries manage their economic and social assets more effectively through participation in farmers' organisations, water-user organisations and village committees, according to the MCC.
Almost 650,000 people are expected to benefit from the project, and household incomes are projected to rise $273 million over the next 20 years. But the project is already making an impact in many people's lives, the MCC said.
Djoulde Coulibady, a resident of a hamlet in the Alatona Zone known as Toule A, talked about how the project has changed her life. Toule A is one of 33 villages participating in the project's Resettlement Action Plan, which provided new homes, schools, water pumps, and health clinics for those relocated by the project.
"Before receiving help from the Alatona Irrigation Project, I grew beans, millet and groundnuts on my farm. The little I earned barely allowed me to meet my family's basic needs," she said.
"Thanks to the project, I now have access to five hectares of irrigated land, one hectare of which is also irrigated during the dry season. I attended agricultural training through the project, and I applied the knowledge and skills I received on my farm. Last year was our first year of production, and we were able to harvest 214 bags of rice."
Coulibady said the project has also helped the women in her village become better organised.
"I am a member of a women's cooperative that organises members to work together to purchase seeds and other inputs, provide weeding services and sell our products," she said. "Because of the project, I earned enough money to pay water and land fees. I purchased two oxen to plow alongside the two oxen the project gave me. My cooperative will provide next season's rice seeds and fertiliser."
Before the Alatona Irrigation Project, most villagers worked independently as labourers in neighbouring villages and towns. Others were seminomadic animal herders. But following the project, 10 men and two women started the Mougnal Cooperative, an agricultural group that meets frequently to discuss common problems and find solutions, according to the MCC.
The project has also helped provide educational opportunities in Toule A, Coulibady said.
"Before the project began, there were no schools in the area. I have a daughter in school and will do everything I can to ensure she is able to continue her studies and become somebody important," she said.