Mali: Renewable energy boosts farming production (UN Women)

| October 5, 2015

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Nearly eight in ten Malian women live in rural areas, according to a recent census. Although these women have very little access to resources such as land and credit, they produce 70 per cent of the food grown in Mali and represent 49 per cent of active farmers.

UN Women and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization have launched a new initiative to address the factors that hinder women’s economic and social development in Mali. The initiative has trained women and provided them with equipment to help them produce and market local products.

The equipment—mills, freezers, and dryers—uses solar energy. For most of the women involved in the project, this renewable energy is the only source of power in their village.

The women use the equipment to extract, dry, grind, or otherwise process fruit such as mango and tamarind and local produce such as ginger and hibiscus flowers. They make syrup, juices, jam, and biscuits. Grains such as millet and fonio are made into flour, couscous, and other local foods.

Kadidia Diawara is the mayor of the rural township of Dandougou Fagala. She says the project benefits not only women, but the entire community. Ms. Diawara says, “Before the units were installed, the off-season was a time of debt for the town.”

Malian women are responsible for many household tasks, including gathering wood for heating—a burden not only for the women but for the environment. One of the main causes of deforestation in Mali is the felling of trees for fuel. Firewood accounts for 75 per cent of household energy consumption.

The project gave women more efficient stoves. The stoves require less wood and thus reduce the amount of time women spend gathering the scarce resource.

Bouaré Djénéba Traoré is from the village of Monimpébougou, in the Koulikoro Region of western Mali. She was one of the women who received a new stove. Ms. Traoré says: “The new, improved stoves make a huge difference. I only need three logs for cooking now. This means my supply lasts longer and I have more time to spend on [other] jobs.”

The project has other benefits. Samaké Kadiatou Traoré is from Massakoni, about 30 kilometres east of Mali’s capital city of Bamako. She says: “We used to mind our own business. But now we know each other much better as a result of the project. When we are not working, we visit each other and help each other out with any problems. That didn’t happen before.”

To read the article on which this story was based, In Mali, Renewable Energy Boosts Agricultural Production, go to:

Photo: Kadidia Diawara is the mayor of the rural township of Dandougou Fagala. Credit: UN Women