CARE Mali: Resilience, Food Security and Climate Change Adaptation

CARE has worked in Mali since 1975 implementing humanitarian response projects as well as longer term development programs working alongside local communities. As our work gradually shifts to meet the needs of a changing population that is more centered in urban areas while continuing to respond to humanitarian crises’, we maintain a strong commitment to gender and social justice, promoting inclusive and improved governance capacities, and enhancing the sustainability of our programs.

CARE Mali employs 175 staff with offices in the capital Bamako, and in the Segou and Mopti regions. CARE currently works in partnership with 20 national NGO partners, strengthening the capacity of civil society while ensuring that interventions are both culturally appropriate and technically sound. CARE Mali recognizes that progress for women and girls means progress for Mali and prioritizes vulnerable and marginalized women and girls aged 15-49 and their children under 5, living in rural and urban areas at the center of all activities. CARE Mali aims to improve the lives of over 2,000,000 people including improving the nutritional status of 270,000 households. Adaptation to climate change and other man-made and natural hazards are key to our approach to reaching this population. All of CARE Mali’s Programs are aligned under two main themes: Gender justice and Women’s Empowerment, which includes education programs; and Resilience, food security and climate change

Central to CARE’s approach to increasing resilience is to go beyond the ability to recover from shocks to addressing the context that makes people vulnerable. We will do this helping communities, particularly women and girls, capacities to deal with shocks and stresses, manage risks, and transform their lives in response to new hazards and opportunities. The following programs highlight how CARE builds the resilience capacity of communities.

The HARANDE project is an integrated and multi-sectoral initiative with the goal of ‘Sustainable food, nutrition and income security for 270,000 vulnerable household members in 290 communities of Youwarou, Tenenkou, Bandiagara and Douentza Districts by 2020’. The Program aims to increase the nutritional status of 58,590 women of childbearing age and 56,592 children under 5 by improving household level nutritional practices and the sustainable use of WASH services. The Programs deliberate focus on improving and diversifying livelihood opportunities attempts to build resilience capacities through the adoption of on-farm agricultural practices as well as helping individuals access suitable financial services. Helping the target 270,000 producers adapt to climate change is done by increasing access to critical climate information and services to help communities adapt to, but also anticipate shocks and stressors. This combination of addressing the anticipatory and adaptive capacities of communities enables them to build their transformative resilience capacities so that project activities are sustained beyond CARE’s engagement with the community. CARE also worked to mitigate potential conflict over water, land and resources among target participants, and engaged youth to help mitigate conflict over access to arable land. The communities themselves proposed a plan to mobilize groups of youth to guide and monitor the passage of animal herds in order to minimize the risk of conflict between producers and pastoralists. 30% of Program participants are women and over half are youth, so it is crucial to specifically engage these groups as they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Youth are also targeted by the program for non-farm livelihood opportunities, and the Program has placed young people, especially women, in tailoring, hairstyling, wood carpentry, and vehicle tire repair apprenticeships.

Over the last year, CARE has reached over 93% of target communities to establish care groups that reach over 7,000 children 6-59 months to refer cases of MAM and SAM for treatment in health facilities. Nearly 7,000 people now also have access to potable drinking water and improved sanitation, which greatly contributes to the reduction of water-related diseases such as diarrhea that are directly related to malnutrition in children.

The Nutrition and hygiene project is being implemented by a consortium comprised of Family Health International (FHI 360), International Rescue Committee (IRC), CARE International in Mali as well as with local NGO, Yam-Giribolo-Tumo (YA-G-TU). The overall objective of the project is to improve the nutritional status of women and children, with emphasis on strengthening resilience through the prevention and treatment of malnutrition, particularly targeting the first 1000 days. Working in 712 villages across 9 districts, the project has developed an integrated approach that focuses on Agriculture, Nutrition, and WASH activities. As a result of CARE’s work, hand-washing among women has increased by over 30% and over 185 villages were certified for being free from open defecation (ODF) and are being supported to keep this status. CARE is working with the Malian Government to sustain these practices over time.

CARE Mali works alongside small-scale farmers to advocate for land rights for women farmers and through agricultural interventions to reclaim degraded land. CARE’s programs have helped women farmers increase the amount of land under cultivation, while also using conservation and water smart agriculture techniques to improve soil health and reduce the amount of water necessary to cultivate crops. Mali’s food security is highly dependent on small-scale farmers who have struggled to produce through droughts, land degradation, and weak land rights. Through CARE’s efforts, nearly 8,000 hectares of land are now utilized for millet, sorghum and cowpea production. Over 12,000 small-scale farmers, 25% of whom are women, have adopted improved agricultural production and management techniques which increase local food security, incomes of small-scale farmers, and the resilience of the entire community.

CARE’s Pathways program supports women smallholders in meeting the food needs of their households by promoting women’s leadership and productive and profitable engagement in intensified, sustainable agriculture. In Mali, the Project increased the productive engagement of 52,000 poor women in sustainable agriculture, and increased women farmers ability to prepare for and respond to weather patterns and shifts in climate, increase production, and incomes, especially during lean seasons, and to increase the capacity of soils in the medium and long terms to ensure that production increases are sustainable over time. The project focuses on three value chains, rice, shallot and millet, and employs CARE’s patented farmer field and business school (FFBS) approach. FFBS integrates multiple components including sustainable agriculture practices, market engagement, gender and equity, food and nutrition security, and group empowerment, which ensures that the knowledge, skills and practices of women farmers are built upon in an integrated manner. Pathways works with communities in the Segou and Mopti regions of Mali to also deal with some of the social norms that hamper women by promoting dialogue around negative social norms including those bordering on the acquisition of land for women. The Pathways initiative also supports women with water smart agricultural practices to increase the yield of their farm produce as well as access to markets.


Pathways has sought to increase women’s access to and ownership of land in the short, medium, and long terms, as well as increase their access to key agricultural inputs and markets, including access to water for production. As a result, the average annual income of the 9,000 women in the Pathways Program has increased by nearly 400% since the start of the project (see table). Using a combination of mulching and an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach, the income for each participant in this value chain went from $1.25 to $2.36 per woman per day (88% increase) for the cropping season, an increase in yield from 23 tons to 36 tons (a 56% gain). The results in the rice value chain were similarly impressive, where although less than 3% of women participated in this value chain, their total income from rice cultivation during the 6-month growing season totaled $ 326, 423. The income per woman participant during this 6-month period was $894.31; and daily income increased 300%, from $1.25 to $5.

Pathways also supported collectives and community groups, especially women’s support and solidarity groups, to organize their efforts through joint sales in the markets and are getting recognized as ‘cooperatives’ and seeing sales go up through collective negotiated prices. In 2017 alone, 7,761 smallholder farmers (7,336 women and 425 men in 49 networks, 11 co-operatives and 15 farmer groups), generated sales amount of $3,627,536. Pathways also facilitated access to credit for nearly 2,000 small-scale farmers, 97% of whom were women. The number of women beneficiaries of the bank loan represented 12.3% compared to 3.6% at project start. Working through 442 Village Savings and Loan Associations, women mobilized $329,012, which has increased the savings per women by 100%, from 10.61 US$ to 21.93 US$. By supporting women small-scale farmers with the information, training, agricultural inputs (land and water) as well as facilitating their access to credit and finance, the Pathways program has transformed the resilience capacities of women small-scale farmers in Mali.

PADIN, a five- year project funded by the Royal Dutch Embassy, aimed at harnessing the economic potential of the Inner Niger River Delta, helping 120,000 small farmers, pastoralists, and fisher families from Delta and Sourou plains. to find durable solutions to food insecurity. PADIN will improve their living conditions through the increase of their agricultural production and the development of sustainable economic activities to strengthen their resilience”. PADIN focuses on bringing sustainable irrigation systems to communities for the improved production of rice, fish and livestock.

The project works in 53 villages in the Mopti region to improve water retention, prevent erosion, and conserve water in the offseason by building canals, planting antierosion barriers with local grasses, and creating fish ponds and small irrigated gardens. A dam and by-pass road were constructed in Mopti to protect the city from flooding, as well as providing evacuation road access from the city to the hospital in case of emergency.

With better water management, farmers can plant rice and vegetables in the off-season, giving them better food access during the lean season and allowing them to sell products at higher prices when market supply is low. PADIN has enabled production to go up across food groups. Yields of vegetables almost tripled and with the introduction of shallots and potato as a high added value crop, women farmers obtained fairly large yields allowing them to increase their incomes by at least $2 per day. Rice production increased by 50% and accounted for 2.58% of regional production. This reduced the lean season by two months for 94% of the 20,000 households targeted by the project. The project also built and equipped 3 milk collection centers and set up local cooperatives and unions of milk producers in the milk basins of the Mopti region. 51% of the product is consumed by the household, leading to increased dietary diversity and food security. The remaining product is sold to generate income. Finally, through Village Savings and Loan Associations, 65.5 million CFA francs were mobilized by women groups. This allowed members of these groups to lend to each other at a lower rate (5%) than that of microfinance institutions, thus increasing women’s access to income-generating activities and control over household resources.

The evidence from CARE’s programs in Mali demonstrate that investing in women and building the adaptive, absorptive and transformative resilience capacities of rural small-scale farmers is seeing an immediate benefit to whole communities. Development programs that are focused on increasing the productive capacity of small-scale farmers cannot be sustainable without deliberate focus on increasing their resilience capacities. The holistic approach taken by CARE Mali to support small-scale farmers with the knowledge, tools, resources to sustain and grow their productive capacities in the face of shocks has helped farmers produce food year-round and generate incomes year-round. Building the resilience capacities of communities has enabled CARE Mali to help small-scale farmers could double their production and incomes while mitigating the effects of climate change on their livelihoods.

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