Supporting women nutrition entrepreneurs in rural Mali
Celebrating the UN International Day of Rural Women
ICRISAT is leading capacity-building initiatives for rural women in agri-food processing across five regions in Mali which have the highest malnutrition rates among women and children in the country.
In Mali, where more than 50% of the population are farmers, women play an important role in the processing of agri-food products and in investing in the artisanal processing industries.
However, women processors working with millet, sorghum, groundnut, and cowpea in rural and peri-urban Mali face constraints to broader market linkages, financing, and access to modern equipment.
In recognition, ICRISAT’s Gender and Youth Cluster (GYC) in a collaborative project with the World Food Program (WFP) Mali, supports 30 small - and medium-scale women processor groups and Cooperatives by providing customized training, innovative processing techniques, and constructing/ equipping processing units.
“A training program was held in May-June 2022 and focused on the creation and management of business and investment plans, market analysis and leveraging effective communication, social mobilization, and marketing techniques around the use of Smart Food which is conducted in partnership with the Food Technology Lab of Institut d’Economie Rurale (IER), Bamako, and school canteens and community health centers in the project intervention areas, “ said Dr Jummai O Yila, gender specialist, ICRISAT.
Training programs are being held in the regions of Koulikoro, Segou, Mopti, Timbuktu, and Gao where acute malnutrition rates are between 14.2% and 11.2% of the local populations.
The programs are aimed at increasing the consumption of biofortified foods with the goal of making healthy and biofortified food rich in vitamin A, zinc, and iron available to children under 5 and women aged 15 to 45. A total of 10,000 women are expected to benefit from this initiative.
The income earned from women-driven processing businesses contributes strongly to the socio-economic welfare of households and farming communities recognizing that the effective participation of women, is a prerequisite for more effective rural development.
According to FAO, levelling access to productive resources and markets for women and men would increase food production by 20%–30%, and raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5% - 4%.
Various beneficiaries of the Project recounted their experiences during focus group discussions.
“Working in the processing group allows us not only to have money to support ourselves but also to feed our families well. These two things alone should encourage any woman in our neighborhood to join the agricultural processing activities,’’ Participant from Dioila.
“When we first started processing agricultural products, we were not taken seriously. Some people thought we were wasting our time. But today, our seriousness, the cohesion of our group and the quality of our products mean that we are invited to all the important events in Kita. Just recently, on the eve of the Christian pilgrimage here, the Governor of the region invited us to take part in the organization of this event,’’ Participant from Kita.
I have become a fulfilled and respected person in my family thanks to my agricultural processing activities. Participant from, Koutiala.
Banner image: A group of processors in the Wakoro processing unit, Mali.
This work aligns with SDGs 5, 2 and 1